Trading volumes were thinning out with most global markets set to shut for Christmas, while Japan was closed today for a holiday.
There was hardly any appetite among investors to take on risk, with a deteriorating outlook for global growth leaving stocks hurtling down for their worst quarterly performance since 2008.
That has attracted bids for the likes of the yen and Swiss franc, considered a safe-bet during times of economic and political stress. They were up about 0.1 per cent each on the US dollar in early Asian trade.
“The global equity market rout has been driving sentiment in the currency markets. I don’t see any significant rebound in risk sentiment yet,” said Stephen Innes, head of Asia trading, Oanda.
The US dollar, also sought out as a safe-haven, managed to hold up despite troubles of its own, including a partial US government shutdown.
The US dollar index, a gauge of its value versus six major peers, held steady at 96.90, having risen 1 per cent last week as investors shunned riskier assets.
In a widely expected move, the US Federal Reserve hiked interest rates by 25 basis points last week for its fourth hike of the year, underpinned by a relatively robust US economy compared with its peers elsewhere.
However, with the Fed signalling “some further gradual” rate hikes despite global risks, traders are growing increasingly nervous that higher borrowing costs would hurt corporate profits and put the brakes on the world’s biggest economy.
The partial US government shutdown which could continue to January 3, when the new Congress convenes and Democrats take over the House of Representatives, has also contributed to the souring of risk sentiment.
There was also uncertainty in the Trump administration after the president on Sunday said he was replacing Defense Secretary Jim Mattis two months early, a move apparently driven by Trump’s anger at Mattis’ rebuke of his foreign policy.
The yen gained 0.2 per cent, changing hands at 111.03. The heightened fears over slowing global growth benefited the Japanese currency the most last week; it rose 2 per cent on the US dollar, and against the Australian dollar, the yen put on a sizable 4 per cent.
“Beyond risk-off, we can see dollar/yen sell off more towards 110 if the repatriation and hedging flows start to pick up,” Innes said.
The euro was up a touch and last fetched US$1.1369 on the dollar.
Elsewhere, sterling edged up 0.1 per cent to US$1.2644. Traders are predicting a volatile period for sterling in January, when Prime Minister Theresa May will seek parliamentary approval for her much-criticised Brexit deal. Sentiment and positioning in the pound remains bearish on growing fears of a chaotic British exit from the European Union.
The Australian dollar, often considered a barometer of global risk appetite, changed hands at US$0.7047, up slightly on its US peer after sliding more than 2 per cent last week. — Reuters
Source: The Malay Mail Online