Yen gains, stocks brace for losses on Wall St. gloom

By Lisa Twaronite

An employee of a foreign exchange trading company works behind monitors in Tokyo November 28, 2013. Credit: Reuters/Toru Hanai
An employee of a foreign exchange trading company works behind monitors in Tokyo November 28, 2013.
Credit: Reuters/Toru Hanai


TOKYO Sun Apr 13, 2014 8:00pm EDT

(Reuters) – The safe-haven yen started the week on a firm footing and Asian shares braced for more losses on Monday after a dismal week on Wall Street.

Ongoing tensions in Ukraine also sapped investors’ appetite for risk. Ukraine gave pro-Russian separatists a Monday morning deadline to disarm or face a “full-scale anti-terrorist operation” by its armed forces, raising the risk of a military confrontation with Moscow.

European Union foreign ministers will hold talks later on Monday about tougher sanctions against Russia.

Nikkei futures pointed to an early dip, with a stronger yen seen undermining shares of exporters. S&P 500 e-mini futures were down about 0.3 percent.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan shed 0.7 percent on Friday, pulling away from five-month highs hit on Thursday.

U.S. stocks slid in a volatile session on Friday, with the Nasdaq closing below the 4,000 mark for the first time since early February as investors bailed out of high-flying technology and biotech shares.

Ahead of that, Japanese shares tumbled to six-month lows, shedding 7.3 percent on the week, which was their biggest weekly fall since devastating earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.

The low-yielding yen benefited from the heightened risk aversion. The dollar was down about 0.2 percent in early trading at 101.46 yen, after touching a 3-1/2 week low of 101.32 yen on Friday, a far cry from a 2-1/2 month high of 104.13 yen set on April 4.

The dollar index steadied, edging up to 79.603, though April 4’s seven-week high of 80.599 remained a distant memory after the greenback’s battering last week as U.S. stocks tumbled.

“Given the technical damage inflicted on the dollar and the decline in U.S. interest rates, it is tempting to look for the greenback’s losses to accelerate,” said Marc Chandler, global head of currency strategy at Brown Brothers Harriman.

“We are more inclined to think that rather than breaking out, the dollar simply moved to the lower end of its ranges. This means that the greenback may do a bit better in the days ahead as participants will likely be denied fresh incentives,” he said in a note to clients.

The dollar got some help against the euro from European Central Bank officials, whose comments rekindled speculation about more easing in the euro zone.

The euro fell about 0.4 percent to 140.52 yen. Against the dollar, it shed about 0.3 percent to $1.3843, moving away from a 3 1/2 week peak of $1.3906 hit on Friday.

ECB President Mario Draghi on Saturday told a news conference that “a further strengthening of the exchange rate would require further stimulus.

The ECB is ready to make asset purchases if it deems them necessary to counter a prolonged period of low inflation, ECB Executive Board member Benoit Coeure said on Sunday.

European Central Banker Christian Noyer said on Monday in an interview with daily newspaper Le Figaro that euro weakening was desirable.

“The stronger the euro is, the more accommodative policy is needed,” Noyer said.

Spot gold XAU= added about 0.6 percent to $1,327.10 an ounce, after marking its second straight week of gains.

(Editing by Shri Navaratnam)