© Reuters. Yen firm, riskier currencies wobble as policymakers grapple with pandemic
By Hideyuki Sano
TOKYO (Reuters) – The safe-haven Japanese yen held largely firm on Tuesday, while risk-sensitive currencies struggled to stay afloat as coordinated moves by central banks failed to quell investor trepidation over the spreading coronavirus pandemic.
Global risk assets were routed over the past several days, with turmoil engulfing many markets on worries the outbreak and draconian containment measures could trigger steep recessions in major economies.
As a result, trading in most markets including foreign exchange is driven more by loss-reduction and other position unwinding to reduce risks or make up for losses, rather than fresh bids, market players said.
“Liquidity in financial markets has evaporated,” ANZ analysts said in a note to clients, adding that the “bold concerted global central bank actions have not done enough to settle markets.”
The liquidity anxiety has hammered higher yielding risk-sensitive currencies, such as the Australian dollar, while those with negative yields, such as the yen, the euro and the Swiss franc, have largely escaped the markets carnage.
The dollar traded at 106.33 yen , bouncing back from Monday’s low of 105.15, but still down 1.6% so far this week,
The euro last stood at $1.1167 (), little changed after wild gyrations on Monday.
The Australian dollar, with big exposure to commodities, fetched $0.6102 , down 0.3% in early trade, after having hit an 11-year low of $0.60765 on Monday.
The Canadian dollar, which has strong correlation with oil prices, sank to a four-year low of C$1.4020 per U.S dollar , as oil prices plummeted on a Saudi-instigated price war.
U.S. benchmark oil futures () fell $3.03 to settle at $28.70 a barrel, near a 4-year low.
The British pound is also under pressure, dogged by worries about not only Britain’s exit from the European Union but also its sizable current account deficit.
Sterling traded at $1.2265 , down 0.04% so far on the day, having hit a five-month low of $1.2203.
A rout on Wall Street on Monday underscored fears over the coronavirus crisis in the West as well as the Federal Reserve’s emergency move to slash rates on Sunday.
But investors took the Fed action, joined by central banks in Japan, Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere, as insufficient given the pathogen’s breakneck spread across the world which has put many nations on virtual lockdowns.
Some analysts said the hasty moves may have backfired as investors were spooked over the possible panic among policymakers.
“Central banks are pressing the gas pedal to the floor. But the car is bogged down in a quagmire that is called coronavirus, so it won’t move forward,” said Ayako Sera, market strategist at Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Bank.
“Until the outbreak stops, for investors, it is time for patience,” she said.
There is no clarity on that front, with global cases now rising to 174,100 with 6,700 deaths, prompting countries to shut borders and take increasingly drastic measures to try to reduce the severity of the outbreak.
Leaders of the Group of Seven wealthy democracies said they were committed to doing “whatever is necessary” to battle the coronavirus pandemic and to work together more closely to protect public health, jobs and growth.
Investors are also shunning many emerging market currencies.
MSCI emerging market currencies index () dropped to its lowest level since late 2018.