By Olga Cotaga
LONDON (Reuters) – Safe-haven currencies such as the Japanese yen retreated on Thursday as the United States and Iran backed away from further conflict, with markets flipping back to a more risk-taking approach on hopes of a U.S.-China trade deal.
U.S. President Donald Trump responded overnight to an Iranian attack on U.S. forces with sanctions, not violence. Iran offered no immediate signal it would retaliate further to a Jan. 3 U.S. strike that killed one of its most senior military commanders.
The yen, seen as a safe haven in times of geopolitical turmoil because of its deep liquidity and Japan’s current account surplus, quickly reversed its gains made after Wednesday’s missile strike.
It was last down 0.2% at 109.36, a 1-1/2-week low
“Markets are brushing aside fears of a major escalation in U.S./Iranian conflict,” said Societe Generale’s strategist Kit Juckes. “The Japanese yen is the biggest FX loser.”
The dollar, also seen as a safe choice to park money in times of turmoil, fell against other major currencies.
The greenback was down 0.1% versus the euro as euro/dollar traded at $1.1115
The euro was also rising against the Swiss franc, another safe-haven, by 0.2% to 1.0833
Traders’ focus is expected to shift back to the global economy, with expectations that the United States and China will sign a trade deal next week providing underlying support for risk assets.
Investors think the deal will clear one of the world economy’s biggest uncertainties and help boost global growth this year, although some think that view is too optimistic.
China’s yuan rose to a five-month high of 6.9175 against the dollar overnight in the offshore market
Moreover, Chinese factory-gate prices fell at a slower pace in December, giving Beijing room to stay on course on monetary easing as economic growth cools. Some investors have worried that consumer inflation, hovering near eight-year highs, could make China’s central bank more cautious about further stimulus.
“A trade deal, falling inflation … combined with past and current PBOC easing should over the next few months help the Chinese economy,” said Sebastien Galy, a Nordea strategist.
Traders will be watching the euro zone November unemployment rate, expected to stay at 7.5%, and U.S. jobless claims, which economists polled by Reuters expect to have inched down to 220,000 in the week to Jan. 4 from 222,000 in the comparable period.
The jobless claims should give an indication of how healthy the U.S. job market is ahead of the more closely watched non-farm payrolls data due out on Friday.
(Reporting by Olga Cotaga; Editing by Hugh Lawson)