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CURRENCIES: China's Yuan Slumps To 4 1/2 -month Low As Trade War Escalates

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05/13/2019 | 03:40pm EDT

By Barbara Kollmeyer, MarketWatch , Aaron Hankin

Haven-related currencies rally as equities stumble

The Chinese yuan on Monday tumbled to its lowest level since Christmas as the U.S.-China trade battle intensified.

The offshore yuan fell to an intraday low at 6.9184, and in most recent trade, a single dollar fetched 6.9088 yuan.

Trade talks between the U.S. and China ended with no deal on Friday, with President Donald Trump defiant on Twitter over the weekend, claiming the U.S. is in an advantageous position after boosting tariffs Friday on $200 billion of Chinese goods to 25% form 10% and threatening to put levies on the full range of Chinese goods.

Beijing on Monday moved to retaliate, announcing tariffs as high as 25% on $60 billion of Chinese goods, further escalating tensions between the world's two largest economies.

What are analysts saying?

"Despite constructive spin from both sides, we remain pessimistic near term. Indeed, rhetoric from both sides over the weekend suggest things will get worse before they get better," wrote analysts at Brown Brothers Harriman, referring to the U.S.-China trade negotiations.

Haven currencies roar higher

The Japanese yen and Swiss franc, but considered haven assets, surged on Monday.

The yen climbed to Yen109.31 from Yen109.95 late Friday in New York, its highest level since Feb. 1, while the Swiss franc rose 0.6%, with a single dollar grabbing 1.0063 francs.

The move toward haven-related assets came as U.S. equities tumbled lower on Monday. In afternoon trade, the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped more than 720 points, at its low, the S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite Index also skidded lower.

"So far the sell-off has been orderly and is removing some of the froth in equity markets," wrote Cliff Hodge, director of Investments for Cornerstone Wealth.

"Investors should keep any eye on yields and the U.S. dollar for clues on the future direction of the market. If the DXY breaks higher, the reflation trade orchestrated by central banks will be at risk."

Meanwhile, the Australian dollar fell 0.7% versus the buck to $0.6950.

As China is Australia's main trading partner, the Australian dollar is sensitive to trade headlines, and investors have also been betting on an interest-rate cut from Australia's central bank, given weak economic data.

The ICE U.S. Dollar Index, a measure of the greenback's strength versus six trading rivals, was a little lower at 97.271.

Elsewhere, the euro was unchanged at $1.1235, while the British pound fell to $1.2965 from $1.3003 late Friday.

Stocks mentioned in the article
ChangeLast1st jan.
AUSTRALIAN DOLLAR / CANADIAN DOLLAR (AUD/CAD) -0.05% 0.91805 Delayed Quote.-4.00%
AUSTRALIAN DOLLAR / JAPANESE YEN (AUD/JPY) -0.35% 74.112 Delayed Quote.-3.39%
AUSTRALIAN DOLLAR / NEW ZEALAND DOLLAR (AUD/NZD) -0.30% 1.0511 Delayed Quote.0.99%
AUSTRALIAN DOLLAR / SWISS FRANC (AUD/CHF) -0.07% 0.68391 Delayed Quote.-0.43%
AUSTRALIAN DOLLAR / US DOLLAR (AUD/USD) -0.10% 0.68423 Delayed Quote.-2.48%
BRITISH POUND / AUSTRALIAN DOLLAR (GBP/AUD) -0.05% 1.83093 Delayed Quote.1.18%
BRITISH POUND / JAPANESE YEN (GBP/JPY) -0.39% 135.7 Delayed Quote.-2.25%
CANADIAN DOLLAR / JAPANESE YEN (CAD/JPY) -0.27% 80.72 Delayed Quote.0.76%
DJ INDUSTRIAL 0.09% 26112.53 Delayed Quote.11.94%
EURO / AUSTRALIAN DOLLAR (EUR/AUD) -0.14% 1.63598 Delayed Quote.0.22%
EURO / BRITISH POUND (EUR/GBP) -0.07% 0.89351 Delayed Quote.-0.96%
EURO / JAPANESE YEN (EUR/JPY) -0.51% 121.251 Delayed Quote.-3.19%
EURO / SWISS FRANC (EUR/CHF) -0.22% 1.11894 Delayed Quote.-0.43%
EURO / US DOLLAR (EUR/USD) -0.23% 1.11944 Delayed Quote.-2.19%
JAPANESE YEN / SWISS FRANC (JPY/CHF) 0.39% 0.9223 Delayed Quote.2.85%
NASDAQ 100 0.63% 7526.519387 Delayed Quote.18.15%
NASDAQ COMP. 0.62% 7845.024273 Delayed Quote.17.50%
NEW ZEALAND DOLLAR / JAPANESE YEN (NZD/JPY) -0.04% 70.506 Delayed Quote.-4.30%
S&P 500 0.09% 2889.67 Delayed Quote.15.16%
UNITED STATES DOLLAR (B) / CHINESE YUAN IN HONG KONG (USD/CNH) 0.09% 6.9338 Delayed Quote.0.87%
US DOLLAR / JAPANESE YEN (USD/JPY) -0.25% 108.313 Delayed Quote.-0.96%
US DOLLAR INDEX -0.01% 97.56 End-of-day quote.0.91%
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