Yen Holds Gains as Global Equity Selloff Stokes Haven Demand

The yen held gains that gave it the best start to the year among major currencies as a global stock selloff stoked demand for the safest assets.

Japan’s currency reached an 11-week high versus the dollar Monday after tensions flared between Saudi Arabia and Iran over the execution of a prominent Shiite cleric, and following a report that showed Chinese factory production continued to contract. Australia’s dollar maintained the biggest decline among developed-market currencies from the end of last year. A gauge of currency market volatility jumped to the highest in a month.

“When a year starts like this, it’s often the case that you get volatility, so to think it will be over any time soon is probably being too optimistic,” said Etsuko Yamashita, chief economist at Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp. in New York. “Unless we get some good news to cancel the risk-off sentiment in the market, it would be difficult for dollar-yen to rebound.”

The yen was at 119.43 per dollar as of 9:24 a.m. in Tokyo from 119.44 Monday, when it climbed 0.6 percent compared with the end of last year. It advanced 0.1 percent to 129.28 per euro.

Australia’s dollar was little changed at 71.89 U.S. cents, having tumbled 1.3 percent from Dec. 31 through Monday’s close in New York.

The JPMorgan Global FX Volatility Index rose to 10.02 percent, the highest since Dec. 2.

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