By Masayuki Kitano
SINGAPORE (Reuters) – The yen edged higher versus the dollar on Monday, but traded below a five-month high as a bounce in U.S. equities late last week dampened demand for traditional safe haven currencies.
The dollar eased 0.1 percent to 108.70 yen, but remained above Friday’s trough of 108.05 yen, its lowest level since Sept. 11. The dollar last week fell nearly 1.3 percent against the yen.
The yen tends to attract demand in times of market stress as the currency is backed by Japan’s current account surplus, which offers it more resilience than currencies of deficit-running countries.
The U.S. S&P 500 () gained 1.5 percent on Friday, ending a wild week with a burst of buying, but still recorded the worst week in two years. Despite the bounce, investors were bracing for more volatile trading days ahead.
During Asian trading hours on Monday, edged higher and were up 0.5 percent as of 0406 GMT.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 1.1 percent.
Reports late last week that the Japanese government had decided to nominate Haruhiko Kuroda for a rare second term as Bank of Japan governor when his current one expires in April, signaling the BOJ’s ultra-loose monetary policy will remain in place, were seen as a factor that could potentially weigh on the yen and temper its gains.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government is to present Kuroda’s nomination to parliament later this month, a person briefed on the matter said on Saturday.
Satoshi Okagawa, senior global markets analyst for Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation in Singapore, said on Monday: “It’s not as if the dollar is going to rise sharply against the yen in the next couple of days just because Kuroda is set to be re-appointed”.
“But once the market settles down, focus will probably return to differences in monetary policy… and that could give the dollar an upward bias against the yen,” he said.
For now, however, the yen is likely to take its cues from moves in U.S. and global equities, Okagawa said, adding that it may take a few weeks for markets to regain some calm.
The yen had risen last week as global equity markets tumbled and volatility soared – moves that came after U.S. bond yields jumped on heightened worries about inflation.
Given the focus on inflation, investors may be taking a wait-and-see stance ahead of data on U.S. consumer price index due on Wednesday, said Teppei Ino, an analyst for Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ in Singapore.
If the U.S. CPI data for January comes in strong and triggers a renewed rise in bond yields, that could dent equities and spur demand for the yen, Ino added.
Against a basket of six major currencies, the dollar eased 0.4 percent to 90.105 after gaining 1.4 percent last week.
Last week was the greenback’s strongest against the currency basket in nearly 15 months as some traders closed out dollar-bearish bets, while others favored the dollar in a safe-haven move to exit other higher-returning but riskier currencies.
The euro edged up 0.3 percent to $1.2290. Last week, the common currency slid 1.6 percent, its worst weekly performance since November 2016, as declining risk appetites and higher volatility prompted market players to reduce their positions.
The euro was susceptible to such position-squaring because a popular trade before the recent market upheaval had been to buy the euro on expectations of the European Central Bank unwinding monetary stimulus.