By Hannah Lang
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. dollar hit more than a one-month high on Monday as investors sought a safe haven due to concerns about China’s economy, and traders braced for possible Japanese government intervention after the yen hit its lowest level since November.
The dollar index, which tracks the currency against its major peers, was up 0.301% at 103.170, hitting its highest level in more than a month.
Analysts said investors bought the dollar as shelter from concerns about the health of the global economy, particularly China.
A source told Reuters that Country Garden, China’s largest private developer, is seeking to delay payment on a private onshore bond for the first time, in a new sign of stress in the sector.
Meanwhile, two Chinese listed companies said at the weekend they had not received payment on maturing investment products from asset manager Zhongrong International Trust Co.
“A lot of traders are focusing again on China,” said Edward Moya, senior market analyst at OANDA. “I think there’s so much concern with just their growth outlook, with their current property crisis, and I think one of the biggest wealth managers not being able to make [their] debt obligations is a big red flag.”
Japan’s yen was trading at its lowest level since November at 145.50 per dollar, with the dollar up 0.36% against the currency.
The Bank of Japan has stuck to its ultra-loose monetary policy as other global central banks hiked interest rates, making returns in other countries look more attractive and weighing heavily on the yen.
Japan intervened in currency markets in September when the dollar rose past 145 yen, prompting the Ministry of Finance (MOF) to buy the yen and push the pair back to around 140 yen. The yen is down nearly 10% against the dollar for the year.
“I wouldn’t be too surprised if we see some news out of the Bank of Japan in the next week or two especially if yen starts to move towards, say, 147, that they’re going to start to make some moves to strengthen the currency,” said Helen Given, FX trader, at Monex USA in Washington.
The Australian dollar slid to its lowest level since May and was last down 0.28% versus the U.S. dollar at $0.648. The currency is often seen as a proxy for investor sentiment on China.
Sterling was last down 0.16% to $1.2676, while the euro was 0.38% lower at $1.09045.
Russia’s rouble reversed course after falling past 100 per U.S. dollar on Monday, driven in large part by the Russian current account surplus shrinking as energy export revenue dropped and government spending on the Ukraine war remained high.
That reversal came after Russia’s central bank sparked expectations of another hefty rate hike in announcing an extraordinary policy meeting for Tuesday.
Argentina’s peso fell on Monday after a far-right libertarian who wants to axe the central bank and dollarize the economy unexpectedly won a primary election. That prompted the Argentine government to devalue its currency by nearly 18%.
Economic data could move currencies later in the week, as investors will scrutinize Chinese industrial output and consumer spending data on Tuesday before minutes from the latest U.S. Federal Reserve meeting on Wednesday. British inflation figures are also due on Wednesday.
Japanese GDP data is due on Tuesday, ahead of inflation figures on Friday.