RTRS: Yen holds near multi-month highs as risk-aversion persists
By Ritvik Carvalho and Jemima Kelly | LONDON
The safe-haven yen steadied on Wednesday after its biggest one-day rise in three months against the dollar, as worries over geopolitical tensions checked investors' risk appetite.
Investors' flight to safety underpinned traditional safe-havens like the yen, U.S. Treasuries and gold, amid fresh worries over France's presidential election and possible U.S. military action against Syria and North Korea.
The Japanese currency had gained more than 1 percent on Tuesday, with the dollar falling below 110 yen for the first time since mid-November. It capped those gains in European trade on Wednesday, trading a fraction lower at 109.65 yen to the dollar.
It was also a little lower against the euro after earlier hitting 115.91. The New Zealand dollar - a gauge of demand for risk - fell to 4-week lows, down 0.6 percent at $0.6918.
"Risk sentiment is not strong at the moment because of tensions in North Korea and also risk of a recent rising Melenchon at the French presidential election date. Those are having a negative impact on risk sentiment and also dollar-yen," said Nomura currency strategist Yujiro Goto in London.
"But what's supporting a bit today is probably oil price movements...the oil price is moving well so I think that's generally good for risk sentiment and negative for the yen."
Brent oil extended gains into an eighth straight session on Wednesday, after Saudi Arabia was said to be pushing its fellow OPEC members and some rivals to prolong supply cuts beyond June.
The dollar fell on Tuesday and continued to stay under pressure on Wednesday, up less than 0.1 percent against a basket of major currencies at 100.71.
In European trade it had come off those highs but was still up 0.1 percent on the day, at 109.625.
The Syrian conflict has been the centre of concern for investors as it puts the United States on a collision course with Moscow, allies of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Fraying nerves further, North Korea warned on Tuesday of a nuclear attack on the United States.
"What is more surprising (than the yen's gain) is that the dollar, which is usually in demand in uncertain times, has not been able to appreciate. That is probably mainly due to the fact that the United States is at the centre of these geopolitical risks," Commerzbank currency strategists wrote in a note to clients.
And in a new twist to the French elections, a far-left veteran - Jean-Luc Melenchon who had been written off as a long shot has now surged into the top four, pushing some pollsters to calculate the most extreme runoff scenarios.
The euro was off 0.1 percent against the dollar to $1.0599.
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(This version of the story corrects lead to show biggest one-day rise against dollar, not against euro or sterling)
(Reporting by Ritvik Carvalho; additional reporting by Jemima Kelly and Tokyo markets team; Editing by Andrew Heavens)