* Malaysian jet downing drives U.S. yields lower and buoys
* Dollar/yen posts biggest one-day loss since early April
* Yen hits five-month high against euro
(Adds details, quotes)
By Shinichi Saoshiro
TOKYO, July 18 The yen hit a five-month high
versus the euro on Friday and held some of its overnight gains
against the dollar as investors saw the currency as a safe haven
after the downing of an airliner over Ukraine and the Gaza
conflict stoked geopolitical tension.
The Malaysian Airlines passenger jet was brought down over
eastern Ukraine. All 298 people on board were killed, sharply
raising the stakes in a conflict between Kiev and pro-Moscow
rebels in which Russia and the West back opposing sides.
Israel announced the start of a ground campaign in Gaza on
Thursday after 10 days of aerial and naval bombardments failed
to stop Palestinian rocket attacks.
Rising geopolitical concerns hurt risk assets such as
equities and sent investors to the relative safety of U.S.
Treasuries, driving yields lower and pushing the yen up against
the dollar overnight.
On Friday the dollar edged up 0.2 percent to 101.34 yen
but it had slid nearly 0.5 percent overnight, its biggest
one-day loss since early April. A break below 101.06 yen would
take the greenback to a two-month low.
The euro, which has lost roughly 0.9 percent against the yen
this week, traded at 137.04 yen after reaching a five-month low
of 136.715 yen earlier in the session.
The euro was within a short distance of $1.3512, its
lowest in a month against the U.S. currency.
The single European currency has found support above the
$1.35 threshold, however, helped by fundamental factors such as
falling U.S. yields, a massive current account surplus and
benefits from the diversification of currency reserves.
The benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury yield fell
to a seven-week low of 2.441 percent on Thursday.
"Put simply, U.S. Treasury yields declined on heightened
geopolitical woes and hurt dollar/yen, which has a high
correlation with yields," said Masafumi Yamamoto, market
strategist at Praevidentia Strategy in Tokyo.
"The yen is being bought but not through the
flight-to-quality-type bids seen in the past. The yen does not
offer as much quality any more since Japan is becoming a nation
with a current account deficit and inflation is taking root."
The S&P 500 share index posted its biggest one-day
percentage drop since April after news of the jet's downing.
The CBOE Volatility Index jumped 32.2 percent on
Thursday, the biggest percentage gain since April 2013 for the
indicator known as "the fear gauge".
Market players said the yen could remain supported as long
as the VIX stayed high.
"The financial markets showed a knee-jerk reaction to the
Malaysian jet news, but calm should prevail as it still
essentially boils down to relations between two countries,
Russia and the United States," said Koji Fukaya, president at
FPG Securities in Tokyo.
"The U.S. economy is showing signs of strength and the
dollar should eventually bounce back. What is happening is a
shock to the market but it does not threaten the financial
system, so the impact of such events tend to be short-lived," he
The dollar steadied against the Swiss franc, another safe
haven unit. It was little changed at 0.8979 franc after
pulling back overnight from a one-month high of 0.8989 hit
(Editing by Eric Meijer and Alan Raybould)