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Yen, Swiss franc rise on renewed U.S.-China trade tension

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12/03/2019 | 04:28pm EST
Illustration photo of a Japan Yen note

The safe-haven yen and Swiss franc rallied against the dollar on Tuesday as risk appetite eased after U.S. President Donald Trump said a trade deal with China might have to wait until after the 2020 U.S. presidential election.

China's offshore yuan fell to its weakest level versus the dollar since October after Trump's comments, while the yen hit a two-week high and the Swiss franc climbed to a four-week peak.

The surprise statement hit the dollar broadly as investors dumped the currency, which has tended to rise when optimism over a trade deal has grown. Market participants have long been waiting for a final trade deal, especially as both countries appeared to be nearing a preliminary one.

Trump said he had no deadline on agreement with Beijing, sparking a selloff in equities.

The news followed statements from Trump on Monday, saying his administration would impose tariffs on metal imports from Argentina and Brazil and likely impose more on a range of French goods.

"This is just a never-ending cycle of trade talks that is going to provide a thorn on this heavily anticipated global growth rebound," said Edward Moya, senior market analyst, at OANDA in New York.

"Even though the U.S. consumer still looks strong, the risk of Trump becoming a grinch is growing. We may not be able to see that Santa rally and that may translate to strong demand for safe havens such as the yen and Swiss franc."

Analysts pointed out though that Trump's missives on trade came at a time when impeachment developments are in focus this week. Trump has been accused of improperly pressuring Ukraine to probe former vice president Joe Biden, a political rival in the 2020 presidential election.

U.S. House Democrats leading the impeachment inquiry into Trump released a report on Tuesday detailing their case against the president. The report said Trump used "the powers of his office to solicit foreign interference on his behalf in the 2020 election."

The report was prepared for the House Judiciary Committee, which is scheduled to kick off hearings on Wednesday as it begins to consider drafting articles of impeachment to be laid before the full House.

The report though had minimal impact on the currency market.

"The impeachment story is not going to go away soon, but I think the markets are immune to it right now," said OANDA's Moya. "There is nothing that is going to sway the Senate. I can't see Trump being unseated."

In afternoon trading, the dollar fell 0.3% against the yen to 108.60 yen, hitting a two-week low of 108.49 earlier. Against the Swiss franc, the dollar also slid, down 0.4% at 0.9870 franc. Earlier, the greenback hit a four-week trough of 0.9858 franc.

The dollar index slipped 0.1% overall to 97.738.

China's offshore yuan was a big casualty as well, with the dollar rising 0.4% to 7.0695 yuan <CNH=EBS>, its highest since late October.

(Reporting by Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss; Additional reporting by Tommy Wilkes in London; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

By Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss

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