Yen gains on U.S.-Mexico trade woes; ECB awaited

TOKYO (Reuters) - The yen edged up versus the dollar on Thursday as sentiment soured over U.S.-Mexico talks on tariffs and immigration, fuelling broader concerns about global trade hostilities and raising appetite for safe-haven currencies.

FILE PHOTO: Euro, Hong Kong dollar, U.S. dollar, Japanese yen, pound and Chinese 100 yuan banknotes are seen in this picture illustration, January 21, 2016. REUTERS/Jason Lee

Mexican officials met with their U.S. counterparts for negotiations in Washington on Wednesday aimed at averting U.S. tariffs on Mexican goods next week, although there were no immediate signs of a rapprochement.

In a move that could deepen Washington’s trade conflict with its partners, U.S. President Donald Trump unexpectedly told Mexico last week to take a harder line on curbing illegal immigration or face 5% tariffs on all its exports to the United States.

The dollar was down 0.16% at 108.286 yen, handing back a bulk of the gains made overnight.

The greenback was supported earlier on Wednesday on initial optimism towards U.S.-Mexico trade talks, and an Institute for Supply Management (ISM) survey showing that U.S. services sector activity expanded at a brisk pace in May.

“The dollar had risen against the yen earlier on speculation that the U.S.-Mexico negotiations would produce positive results, but headed back down on headlines saying an agreement had not been reached,” said Shinichiro Kadota, senior strategist at Barclays in Tokyo.

“The focal point today will be on the ECB and how dovish President Draghi could be.”

The European Central Bank makes its monetary policy decision later on Thursday. The central bank will try to give the ailing euro zone a boost and may even set the stage for more action later this year as an escalating global trade war unravels the benefits of years of monetary stimulus.

ECB President Mario Draghi is expected to maintain guidance about the possibility of more stimulus.

The euro was 0.05% higher at $1.1227 after retreating 0.3% on Wednesday. The single currency has brushed a 1-1/2-month high of $1.1307 this week, during which the greenback has suffered significant losses.

The dollar index against a basket of six major currencies stooped to a two-month low of 96.749 midweek as benchmark U.S. yields declined sharply this week to 21-month lows on investor risk aversion and heightened prospects of the Federal Reserve cutting interest rates.

“With little hopes for resolution in the U.S.-China trade conflict and Brexit, a prospective Fed rate cut has emerged as a key potential catalyst for the currency market,” said Daisuke Karakama, chief market economist at Mizuho Bank in Tokyo.

The dollar index was little changed at 97.309 after managing to edge up 0.25% the previous day, when it found some traction following four days of losses.


The Mexican peso, already saddled with trade concerns, took a hit after credit ratings agency Fitch downgraded its sovereign debt rating on Wednesday by a notch from BBB plus to BBB, just two notches above junk status.

Fitch said the financial woes of state oil company Pemex were taking a toll on Mexico’s prospects. The ratings agency also said Mexico’s mounting trade tensions with the United States influenced its view.

In a further blow for Mexico, Moody’s changed the country’s outlook to negative from stable.

The Mexican peso was down 0.8% at 19.7489 per dollar, edging back towards a five-month low of 19.8800 brushed on Monday.

Editing by Sam Holmes and Jacqueline Wong