FOREX-Yen, franc, euro sought in risk-asset rout, Aussie trounced

Fri Jan 24, 2014 4:08am EST

* Yen on brink of break past resistance at 103 yen per dollar

* China, emerging market worries spark selloff in risk assets

* Euro helped by inflows, rising c/a surplus

* Aussie and Canadian dollars hit hard

By Patrick Graham

LONDON, Jan 24 (Reuters) - The yen, Swiss franc and euro held firm on Friday having charged higher overnight after worries about a slowdown in China and turmoil in some emerging markets spurred demand for safe-haven currencies.

In the face of a nervous market, comments from a Reserve Bank of Australia policymaker that the Australian dollar had not fallen far enough drove the currency to 3 1/2-year lows.

If analysts are agreed on one thing in a jumbled start to the year for major currency markets, it is that money is set to drain out of emerging economies. Investors, partly underlining this, have bid strongly for a flurry of large bond issues in the euro zone this month.

That goes some way to explaining, along with another poorer batch of U.S. data on Thursday, why the year's other major bet - a stronger dollar against the euro - has as yet failed to materialise.

"European assets have become a sort of safe haven for investors," said Alvin Tan, a currency strategist with French bank Societe-Generale in London.

"We've seen Spanish and Portuguese debt being very well-received by the market. Something many people also often forget is that Germany has a bigger current account surplus in dollar terms than China."

Data published on Thursday showed the euro zone current account surplus hit a record high in November.

Sterling has also done well at the start of the new year, surging to its highest against the dollar in almost three years early on Friday on the back of speculation the Bank of England could raise interest rates before the end of the year.

That still looks like a long shot to most, but Governor Mark Carney's appearance at Davos later on Friday will be another closely-watched event.

Thursday's weak Chinese manufacturing data, while influenced by the upcoming Lunar New Year holiday, rekindled concerns of slower growth in China as Beijing seeks to curb credit-fuelled investment and turn the economy toward consumption.

"China is, in a way, the kingpin of emerging markets. When the Chinese economy suffers, so do a lot of emerging currencies," said Sho Aoyama, senior market analyst at Mizuho Securities in Tokyo.

"The other side of the coin is, when investors avoid risk, they buy currencies backed by a current account surplus."

The dollar fell more than 1 percent against the yen and Swiss franc on Thursday, reaching a two-week low of 102.97 yen and a three-week low of 0.8964 Swiss francs. On Friday, the dollar was at 103.02 yen and 0.8975 franc.

The euro held at $1.3682, having jumped 1.1 percent on Thursday, stalling ahead of resistance at $1.37.

In contrast, the dollar nursed heavy losses after suffering its biggest one-day fall in four months against a basket of major currencies, undermined by a drop in U.S. benchmark yields to a six-week low.

The dollar index was last at 80.488, having skidded nearly 1 percent on Thursday.

The Australian dollar fell to $0.8681 after Reserve Bank of Australia board member Heather Ridout was reported as saying the currency had not fallen enough and that the currency at 80 U.S. cents would be a "fair deal" for the economy.

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