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Yen supported by worries over US-China trade dispute
[SINGAPORE] The yen held firm on Tuesday as simmering US-China trade tensions stirred up fears for the global growth outlook, sapping investors' risk appetite.
The US dollar held steady at 105.91 yen, struggling to gain traction after having fallen for three straight trading days, and trading below a two-week high around 107 yen set on March 28.
The yen had risen on Monday as US equities tumbled, with the S&P 500 sliding 2.2 per cent as investors fled technology shares amid resurgent worries over a trade war.
The sell-off in US equities came after China imposed extra tariffs on US products, escalating a dispute between the world's two biggest economic powers.
"It's going to be choppy, but... given how fragile equity markets look right now, I think the clear trade is dollar/yen lower," said Stephen Innes, head of trading in Asia-Pacific for Oanda in Singapore.
Investors' risk appetite is unlikely to recover quickly unless there is some easing in the US-China trade tensions, he added.
"I don't think people will be looking to put risk on too quickly until something positive develops on the trade front," Mr Innes said.
The Japanese yen, typically viewed as a safe-haven currency, tends to benefit at the US dollar's expense during times of international political and financial turbulence.
The yen had risen in March as worries over the risk of a global trade war roiled financial markets. That had sent the US dollar down to a 16-month low of 104.56 yen on March 26.
Some market participants said the US dollar could find support against the yen for now, especially if Japanese importers and intuitional investors opt to buy the dollar on dips.
The simmering trade tension between China and the United States is seen likely to be a market focus in the near term.
The Trump administration is expected sometime this week to publish a list of Chinese goods that could be subjected to new US tariffs.
Beyond the potential trade war, investors are also focused on US data this week, led by the non-farm payrolls report for March due on Friday.
The reports should determine the path for future Federal Reserve interest rate increases, analysts say.
The euro held steady at US$1.23.
Elsewhere, the Australian dollar edged up 0.1 per cent to US$0.7667, clinging above a three-month low of US$0.7643 set last week.
Australia's central bank is seen as all but certain to keep its cash rate at a record low 1.5 per cent at its monetary policy decision due later on Tuesday.