Australian dollar, offshore yuan rise as risk appetite picks up

Australian dollars are seen in an illustration photo February 8, 2018. REUTERS/Daniel Munoz

The Australian dollar and offshore yuan rose on Tuesday as risk appetite picked up, although the spread of coronavirus in China remained a threat.

The Australian dollar rose 0.5% to $0.6725, pulling away from a 10 1/2-year low of $0.6670 touched last October, after the Reserve Bank of Australia left its main cash rate unchanged at 0.75%.

The offshore yuan gained 0.3% to 6.9905 per dollar, rising from a one-month low of 7.0230 per dollar in European trade on Monday.

Chinese stocks also ended higher on Tuesday as the central bank vowed to stabilise the market, after a coronavirus-led rout that erased almost $400 billion of market value from Shanghai’s benchmark index on Monday.

Safe-haven currencies, such as the Japanese yen and Swiss franc, were down around 0.3% on the day.

“Generally we’ve had this turn-up in risk appetite this morning,” said Rabobank FX strategist Jane Foley.

Other trade-exposed currencies also rose, with the Norwegian crown up 0.4% to $9.24 and the New Zealand dollar up 0.1% at $0.6469.

Chinese authorities said the death toll in China rose by a record 64 from the previous day to 425, mostly in Hubei, the province where the outbreak is thought to have originated. The number of cases in China rose by 3,235 to 20,438.

“The big question is, how long this improvement in risk appetite might last … unless we see a definite peak in the number of cases being diagnosed, it’s really quite possible that risk appetite will falter again,” Rabobank’s Foley said.

Elsewhere, Britain’s pound fell to near a six-week low against the U.S. dollar at $1.2955, extending Monday’s losses, amid renewed fears of a hard Brexit after Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s tough tone on European Union trade talks.

It was at a two-week low against the euro at 85.21 pence. The euro was flat against the dollar at $1.1059.

In the United States, Democratic Party officials blamed “inconsistencies” for an indefinite delay in Iowa’s caucus results. A victory by left-leaning Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren could hurt shares and boost safe-haven currencies.

The dollar index rose to 97.882 after gaining 0.44% on Monday, its the biggest advance this year.

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