LONDON: The dollar’s rally fizzled on Friday and risk-sensitive currencies recovered with an easing of nerves over a clash between individual investors and professional short-sellers in the United States, while the yen dropped sharply.
The moves in FX markets were measured but the earlier buying of dollars underscored that concerns about the wild swings in stock prices had worried traders in currency markets.
The big mover of the day was the Japanese yen, which hit a two-week low versus the dollar and a nearly three-year low against the Swiss franc. Analysts attributed the move to several reasons, including the dollar’s yield advantage over Japan and month-end portfolio reshuffling.
The dollar had benefited from safety buying since the start of the week, when investors fretted that President Joe Biden’s fiscal spending package would not be as large as the proposed $1.9 trillion.
COVID-19 vaccine rollouts globally have been running into trouble, too, adding to investor jitters. Production delays have snowballed into a spat between the European Union and drugmakers over how best to direct the limited supplies available.
The dollar index — which measures the dollar against a basket of currencies — initially rose but was last down slightly at 90.526. It remains up for the week and is nearly 0.9% higher this month.
Against the yen the dollar rallied as much as 0.6% to 104.94, its strongest since Nov. 16.
The yen also weakened sharply versus the Swiss franc and the euro.
“It’s a very interesting move especially given that at the same time global equity indices would suggest that risk sentiment is not improving as much to justify the move,” said Valentin Marinov, head of G10 FX research at Credit Agricole, referring to the yen’s drop versus the dollar.
The euro rose 0.1% to $1.2137, rebounding after growth in Germany and Spain and a smaller-than-expected contraction in France pointed to resilience in the euro zone economy.
Risk-sensitive currencies like the Australian dollar fell but were off their lows of the day. Most emerging-market currencies dropped.
The Chinese yuan, however, strengthened 0.4% to 6.45 yuan per dollar in offshore markets.