Yen hits more than four-month high on trade-war, growth worries


© Reuters. Japanese 10,000 yen notes line up in Tokyo, in this picture illustration

By Daniel Leussink

TOKYO (Reuters) – The yen brushed a more than four-month high against the dollar on Monday as U.S. President Donald Trump’s hard stance on trade broadened to countries beyond China, forcing investors to safe-haven assets, including government bonds.

With trade issues remaining front-and-center, investor risk appetite has been weighed by fears of a global growth slowdown that has helped stoke government debt demand and triggered an equity selloff.

In a recent development, U.S. and Mexican officials were preparing for trade talks after Trump vowed to impose punitive tariffs on all Mexican goods in an intensifying dispute over migration.

“The Mexican news is quite punchy. No one was really expecting it to the same extent they were with China,” said Chris Weston, Melbourne-based head of research at foreign exchange brokerage Pepperstone.

“Mexico is a huge trade partner with the U.S.,” he said.

Weston added that the news of Trump’s tariff treat on Mexico helped stoke demand for perceived safe-haven currencies, such as the Swiss franc and Japanese yen.

The yen was last steady at 108.23 yen per dollar, paring gains after briefly hitting 108.17, its highest since Jan. 15. On Friday, it had booked its sharpest daily rise in more than two years, climbing a little over 1.2% during the session.

The yen tends to acts as a safe haven in times of geopolitical and financial turmoil as Japan is the world’s biggest creditor nation.

U.S. and Mexican officials were preparing on Sunday for upcoming talks aimed at averting a trade clash after Trump said he will apply 5% tariffs on Mexican goods on June 10 if Mexico does not halt the flow of illegal immigration across the U.S.-Mexican border.

A day earlier, Mexico’s president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador had hinted his country could tighten migration controls to defuse tensions with Trump, saying he expected “good results” from talks with Washington.

Market participants also kept a focus on the trade dispute between the United States and China, the world’s two largest economies.

A senior Chinese official and trade negotiator said on Sunday Washington cannot use pressure to force a trade deal on China and refused to be drawn on whether the leaders of the two countries would meet at the G20 summit in Japan at the end of the month to bash out an agreement.

The dollar held mostly steady even after benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury yields hit as low as 2.121% early on Monday, their lowest since September 2017.

The euro on Monday gained 0.1% to $1.1178, rising for a second session after tacking on 0.35% on Friday – its first gain in five sessions.

The Australian dollar was 0.1% higher at $0.6943, hovering close to a more than two-week high of $0.6945 last touched on May 15.

The Mexican peso, hit by Trump’s sudden threat to impose tariffs on Friday, regained some stability, trading at 19.634 to the dollar, after its 2.5% fall on Friday.

(Graphic: World FX rates in 2019 – http://tmsnrt.rs/2egbfVh)

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