January 3, 2019 / 8:38 AM / 13 days ago

FOREX-Yen soars after 'flash crash', China worries

* Graphic: World FX rates in 2018 tmsnrt.rs/2egbfVh

By Saikat Chatterjee

LONDON, Jan 3 (Reuters) - The yen rocketed higher on Thursday and is poised for its biggest daily rise in 20 months as growing concerns about the health of the global economy, particularly China, sent investors scurrying into the safe-haven of the Japanese currency.

The yen surged across the board, reserving some of its biggest gains against the traditional high-yielding currencies favoured by domestic retail investors such as the Australian dollar and the Turkish lira.

The break of some key technical levels in early Asian trading on Thursday triggered some massive stop-loss sales, forcing investors to unwind some of their large short yen trades against the dollar and quickly cascading into other currencies.

The dollar collapsed to as low as 104.10 yen, an eye-watering drop of 4.4 percent from the opening level of 108.87 and the lowest reading since March 2018.

It was last trading around 107.54 yen, down 1.2 percent on the day and poised for the biggest daily fall since November 2016. At session lows, it has fallen more than 6.5 percent in the last five trading sessions.

While the early slide was triggered by news of a rare cut in sales forecast by Apple in its latest quarter, citing slowing iPhone sales in China, the selling quickly gathered momentum in illiquid markets, with Japan still on holiday after the New Year.

“The sharp drop in risk sentiment fueled by weaker PMI data in China and Europe and Apple’s warning has contributed to the sharp overnight move in the yen,” said Valentin Marinov, head of G10 FX research at Credit Agricole based in London.

The yen’s surge against the dollar also pushed it higher against other major rivals such as the pound and the euro against which it rose 1.8 percent and 0.9 percent respectively.

Market watchers say the yen’s surge may have further room to run as Japanese investors have made a beeline for overseas assets, particularly U.S. equities, in recent months on an unhedged basis and the yen rise would force them to cover some of their short positions.

Elsewhere, the dollar was down 0.3 percent against a basket of its rivals at 96.56 while the euro rose 0.3 percent to $1.1372. (Reporting by Saikat Chatterjee Editing by Gareth Jones)

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