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Yen jumps, peso tumbles on Trump’s tariff threat on Mexico

Trump threatens tariffs on Mexico over illegal immigration

By Reuters - Jun 02,2019 - Last updated at Jun 02,2019

An employee changes the board with the exchange rate for Mexican peso and US dollar at a CI Bank branch in Mexico City, Mexico, on Friday (Reuters photo)

NEW YORK — Investors rushed into the perceived safety of the Japanese yen on Friday, with the currency scoring its best day against the dollar in four months, after US President Donald Trump's threat to impose tariffs on Mexico roiled financial markets and stoked recession fears.

Taking aim at what he said was a surge of illegal immigrants across the southern border, Trump vowed on Thursday to impose a tariff on all goods coming from Mexico, starting at 5 per cent and ratcheting higher until the flow of people ceases.

The Mexican peso tumbled against the greenback, losing as much as 3.4 per cent at one point, for its steepest single-day loss since October. It was down 2.65 per cent at 19.6485 per dollar.

Trump's surprise duties on Mexican imports "spurred sharp losses in the Mexican peso and a general risk-off move that strengthened the yen", said Marc Chandler, chief market strategist at Bannockburn Global Forex LLC.

Several different currencies have served as safe havens during the global trade conflict, but the yen has consistently been among the strongest this year, and on Friday investors appeared to opt for the Japanese currency.

The yen increased 1.11 per cent at 108.41 per dollar and 0.75 per cent per euro.

For May, the Japanese currency was on track to gain 2.72 per cent against the dollar and 3.15 per cent versus the euro.

The Swiss franc also enticed safe-haven buying, rising 0.69 per cent at $1.0008, near its strongest versus the dollar since April 10.

The impact of escalating trade tensions between Washington and Beijing is starting to show up in economic data, with a key measure of Chinese manufacturing activity disappointing investors, and Trump's latest salvo fueled a rush on Friday to safe-haven assets such as government bonds and the yen.

The US dollar has itself served as a safe haven currency in recent times, but on Friday, it fell 0.34 per cent against a basket of other currencies, hovering below a two-year peak reached last week.

For the month, the dollar index was on track for a 0.4 per cent gain, extending its winning monthly streak to four.

"The US dollar may be embarking on a major turning point," said Jack McIntyre, portfolio manager at Brandywine Global.

The dollar's broad losses on Friday were compounded by comments from senior policymakers, with the US Federal Reserve Vice Chair Richard Clarida on Thursday discussing the possibility of rate cuts should the world's biggest economy take a turn for the worse, though he also said he thought the US economy is in "a very good place".

US interest rates futures implied traders expect at least one rate cut from the Federal Reserve by year-end.

Government data on Friday showed a modest pickup in inflation in April, while a private report indicated a stronger-than-forecast improvement in US Midwest manfacturing activity in May.

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