By Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss
NEW YORK (Reuters) – The safe-haven yen advanced to a one-week high against the dollar and a 4-1/2-month peak versus the euro on Tuesday, as investors grew cautious about a possibly contentious meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Trump had vowed during his campaign to label China a currency manipulator on his first day in office.
While that has not happened, a CNBC report last week said the Trump administration was reviewing the scope of its power to penalize countries whose currencies it perceives as undervalued. The report provided no details about how that would be done.
“It’s always difficult to know what components of FX the two (Trump and Xi) will focus on or what specific measure they will be looking at in order to amp up the rhetoric on currency manipulator,” said Brad Bechtel, managing director FX at Jefferies in New York.
Markets also reacted to a bombing on Monday in a St. Petersburg metro and had an eye on U.S. employment data due later this week and France’s presidential election later this month.
In late trading, the dollar was down 0.2 percent to 110.64 yen <JPY=>, after earlier sliding to a one-week low of 110.27 yen.
Economic data on Tuesday was largely positive for the dollar. The U.S. trade deficit in February narrowed more than expected to $43.6 billion, while U.S. factory orders rose 0.1 percent, increasing for a third straight month.
That should keep expectations for multiple Federal Reserve interest rate hikes this year intact.
“Our projections lean towards a continuation of this positive trend in the U.S. economy, as well as sustained progress overall in economic data,” said James Chen, head of research at Forex.com in Bedminster, New Jersey.
“This scenario should support the potential for accelerated Fed tightening and further strengthening for the dollar going forward,” he added.
The euro dropped against the yen, off 0.3 percent at 118.06 yen. Earlier, the euro fell as far as 117.43 yen, the lowest since Nov. 22.The euro <EUR=> earlier fell to a three-week trough versus the dollar and was last at $1.0667, flat on the day.
Meanwhile, the Reserve Bank of Australia’s decision to keep interest rates at a record low of 1.5 percent was not a surprise. But the Aussie dollar fell after the RBA hinted it was not too confident about domestic labor and inflation conditions.
The Aussie hit a three-week low of U$0.7545 <AUD=D4>, having declined steadily over the past two weeks from a four-month high of U$0.7750.
(Click here for a graphic on ‘Global foreign exchange rates’ http://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/rngs/GLOBAL-CURRENCIES-PERFORMANCE/0100301V041/index.html)
(Reporting by Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss in New York; Editing by Grant McCool and Meredith Mazzilli)