Fragile yen tests 1998 low, sterling holds its breath

By Rae Wee

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – The yen languished near a fresh 24-year low on Thursday, while sterling pared some overnight gains as investors nervously awaited an impending deadline for the end of the Bank of England’s emergency bond-buying programme.

Investors also were on edge in Asia trade ahead of a key inflation reading in the U.S. later in the day for possible clues on how much higher the Federal Reserve will push interest rates.

The yen hit a trough of 146.98 per dollar overnight and last traded at 146.87.

It is a whisker away from its August 1998 low of 147.64 per dollar, and well past last month’s low of 145.90 per dollar which prompted Japanese authorities to intervene to buy the yen.

“It has lost its safe haven appeal,” said Rodrigo Catril, a senior currency strategist at National Australia Bank (OTC:NABZY).

“There’s been this sense of cautiousness around that previous high (for dollar/yen) … now they’ve punched through it, and therefore it feels like you have a little bit more room to keep going, because there hasn’t been any intervention.”

Sterling eased 0.13% to $1.10845, following a 1.25% rebound in the previous session after the Financial Times reported that the BoE had signalled privately to lenders that it was prepared to extend its emergency bond-buying programme beyond Friday’s deadline if market conditions demanded it.

However, the central bank later reiterated that its programme of temporary gilt purchases will end on Oct. 14.

At the same time, Britain’s new government said on Wednesday that it would not reverse its vast tax cuts or reduce public spending – a plan which has wreaked havoc in the country’s financial markets.

UK pension schemes are racing to raise hundreds of billions of pounds to shore up derivatives positions before the BoE’s Friday deadline.

Elsewhere, the euro gained 0.02% to $0.97035, while the antipodean currencies were nursing losses after having fallen to fresh multi-year lows earlier in the week.

The Aussie was up 0.02% at $0.6279, after sliding to a 2-1/2-year low of $0.62355 in the previous session.

The kiwi gained 0.10% to $0.5613, not far from its trough of $0.5536 hit on Tuesday, the lowest level since March 2020.

Core inflation in the U.S. is projected to rise 6.5% year-on-year in September. Overnight, data showed that U.S. producer prices increased more than expected last month.

The U.S. dollar index firmed to 113.29.

 

“In some ways, the U.S. CPI is still looking back in the rearview mirror. You need to look at the component parts and see if there’s any interesting momentum that can be inferred,” said Saktiandi Supaat, regional head of FX research and strategy at Maybank.

Minutes from the Federal Reserve’s policy meeting last month showed that officials agreed they needed to raise interest rates to a more restrictive level – and then keep them there for some time – to meet their goal of lowering “broad-based and unacceptably high” inflation, even as the minutes contained a hint of a downshift in the pace of future monetary tightening.