FOREX-Yen in favour, Aussie pressured as China data disappoints

Sun Mar 9, 2014 6:50pm EDT

Related Topics

* Yen up broadly as China data weighs on risk appetite

* Aussie under pressure, particularly against the yen

* Kiwi supported ahead of possible rate hike this week

By Ian Chua

SYDNEY, March 10 (Reuters) - The yen rose across the board early on Monday as investors gave riskier currencies, such as the Australian dollar, a wide berth after China data fuelled worries about a slowdown in the world's second-biggest economy.

Figures released over the weekend showed a surprisingly sharp drop in exports that tipped China's trade balance into a deficit, while inflation cooled to its slowest pace in 13 months.

Analysts cautioned against reading too much into the trade figures given possible distortions caused by the Lunar New Year holiday, but investors were taking no chances.

The Australian dollar, usually used as a liquid proxy for China plays, was hit hard. It dropped to $0.9030 from $0.9065 late in New York on Friday and fell as much as 0.7 percent to 92.92 yen.

The Aussie has since edged back to $0.9053 and 93.40 yen.

The U.S. dollar and euro also fell against the Japanese currency, slipping to 103.07 yen and 142.94 yen from 103.31 yen and 143.30 yen, respectively, in New York late on Friday.

"Given the softness of inflation data it does appear that the Chinese economy has slowed in recent months," said Craig James, chief economist at CommSec in Sydney.

"The full extent of the slowdown won't be known for a few months. But it appears a mid-cycle pause is occurring as authorities attempt to deal with the effects of the shadow banking system and the pollution problem," he said.

The euro was steady against the dollar at $1.3874, having retreated from a 2-1/2-year peak of $1.3915 after data on Friday showed U.S. job growth accelerated sharply in February.

U.S. employers added 175,000 jobs to their payrolls last month after creating 129,000 new positions in January, but that was not enough to keep the unemployment rate from edging up to 6.7 percent from a five-year low of 6.6 percent.

Still, the European common currency ended with a 0.5 percent gain last week with euro bulls heartened by the European Central Bank's reluctance to take further policy action, despite forecasting low inflation for years to come.

The resilience in the euro was surprising particularly given the crisis in Ukraine.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk will hold talks with President Barack Obama in Washington on Wednesday on how to find a peaceful resolution to the crisis, the White House said.

There is little in the way of market-moving economic news out of Asia on Monday. Japan will release a revised reading of its fourth-quarter growth figures later in the morning.

Several central banks in Asia will hold their policy reviews this week including Japan, New Zealand, Thailand, South Korea and Indonesia.

Analysts at JPMorgan expect the Reserve Bank of New Zealand to kick off its tightening cycle with a 25 basis point rate hike. They see a quarter-percentage-point easing in Thailand and no policy change in Japan and South Korea.

Prospects of an interest rate hike should keep the New Zealand dollar well supported this week. The kiwi last traded at $0.8435, having hit $0.8523 on Friday, its highest in over four months.

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