Dollar supported as investors seek safety in liquidity

The dollar index against a basket of major six currencies gained 0.53 per cent overnight as the US currency advanced against most of its major peers except for the safe-haven yen. — Reuters pic
The dollar index against a basket of major six currencies gained 0.53 per cent overnight as the US currency advanced against most of its major peers except for the safe-haven yen. — Reuters pic

TOKYO, April 2 — The dollar held gains today as investors rushed to the security of the world’s most liquid currency as the coronavirus pandemic caused massive disruptions to global trade.

The dollar index against a basket of major six currencies gained 0.53 per cent overnight as the US currency advanced against most of its major peers except for the safe-haven yen.

In early Thursday trade, the euro was little changed at US$1.0959 after 0.69 per cent fall yesterday. Sterling fetched US$1.2382, having lost 0.40 per cent yesterday.

The Australian dollar changed hands at US$0.6080, having dropped 0.99 per cent in the previous session.

The dollar traded at ¥107.15 after it touched a two-week low of 106.925 yesterday.

Markets were spooked after US President Donald Trump’s dire press briefing late Tuesday, in which he warned Americans of a “painful” two weeks ahead in fighting the coronavirus even with strict social distancing measures.

“If America’s optimistic president is warning the worst of the pandemic is yet to come, what factory in their right mind would keep the doors open and workers on the payroll?” asked Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist at MUFG Union Bank in New York.

“With only a few actual data points so far, the results indicate this is looking more like a depression than a garden-variety recession.”

The starkest evidence of the damage came last week when weekly US initial jobless claims, one of the earliest gauges of economic trends, jumped to 3.28 million, blowing past the previous record of 695,000 set in 1982.

The next jobless claims data release due at 1230 GMT on Thursday is expected to show another 3.50 million applications during last week.

Economists’ forecast in Reuters poll range from 1.5 million to 5.25 million.

“As we’ve seen yesterday, a deterioration in the US economic outlook is likely to lead to strength in the yen against the US dollar,” said Shin-ichiro Kadota, senior strategist at Barclays.

The pandemic has shown few signs of abating with global cases on track to hit one million within a day or two, stretching over more than 200 countries.

Some vulnerable emerging market currencies have come under extreme pressure as wide current account deficits, low credit ratings and limited foreign currency reserves heighten capital flight risks.

The Brazilian real and the South African rand both hit record lows while the Turkish lira sank to a two-year low. ­— Reuters

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