The Australian dollar was the big loser on Thursday after mixed employment data raised expectations for an interest rate cut, while investor nerves about suspected attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman supported demand for the Japanese yen.
The yen also rallied on Thursday as fading hopes for a U.S.-China trade deal at this month’s G20 meeting, as well as massive street protests in Hong Kong, drove investors into safe-haven assets, although stock markets in Europe managed to claw higher.
Reports of the attacks on two tankers, which sent crude oil prices soaring, added to the already-heightened tensions between Iran and the United States.
The yen rose to as high as 108.16 yen per dollar before settling at 108.44, up 0.1% on the day.
“You still have a lot of uncertainty when it comes to geopolitics,” said Manuel Oliveri, analyst at Credit Agricole.
“The focus is shifting to the G20 meeting. Risk sentiment remains relatively unstable,” he added, although cautioning that expectations for interest rate cuts by the U.S. Federal Reserve were keeping investor confidence from weakening further.
The Australian dollar, viewed as a barometer for global investor sentiment, fell 0.3% to $0.6901, a two-week low. Against the yen the Aussie tumbled half a percent to its weakest since January before hitting 74.89, down 0.4%.
Mixed jobs data in Australia were taken as a green light for an early rate cut. Analysts noted that markets were pricing in a 65% chance of a rate cut in July, and a more than 80% chance of one by August and September. Australian government bond yields slid to record lows.
The dollar edged lower, the index hitting 96.965 after softer-than-expected inflation numbers published on Wednesday. The greenback hit its lowest since late March on Monday as expectations grow that the Fed will soon cut rates.
The euro was little changed at $1.1287.
“In our view, the Fed has blinked and rate cuts are coming from July. At the same time, the ECB (European Central Bank) lacks answers on what to do about the risk of a de-anchoring of inflation expectations. The Fed-ECB monetary policy divergence should pave the way for a higher EUR/USD over the coming six months,” Danske Bank analysts said in a note.
The Swiss franc rose 0.2% to 1.1215 francs per euro after the Swiss National Bank said it could further relax its ultra-loose monetary policy but did not sound as concerned about the economic outlook as some analysts had expected.
Sterling slipped, extending Wednesday’s losses after British lawmakers defeated an attempt led by the opposition Labour Party to try to block a no-deal Brexit.
The pound was last down 0.1% at $1.2675 and 89.06 pence per euro.