March 16, 2018 / 9:12 AM / 4 months ago

FOREX-Dollar retreats against yen as U.S. political worries rattle markets

* Yen hits highest since March 6

* Euro ticks higher as dollar weaknens

* Graphic: World FX rates in 2018 tmsnrt.rs/2egbfVh

By Tommy Wilkes

LONDON, March 16 (Reuters) - The dollar fell to its lowest level against the Japanese yen since early March on Friday on reports of more turmoil in the Trump administration, while other markets were quiet as investors remained cautious.

Concerns that U.S. trade tariffs could hurt the global economy and personnel changes at the heart of the U.S. administration have rattled markets in recent days, pushing the dollar on to the back foot and leaving the yen as the main beneficiary.

Commerzbank said the yen was also boosted by domestic factors, paricularly confusion about when and how the Bank of Japan could start to ease record levels of monetary stimulus. Analysts at the bank said the BoJ was “sounding indefinably hawkish.”

“Hardly surprising that in that case the smallest cause (such as news from Washington) is enough to cause dollar-yen weakness,” they said in a note.

The yen, which has strengthened from around 113 yen per dollar at the start of the year, rose 0.6 percent to 105.645, its highest since March 6. The Japanese currency tends to perform well in times of market uncertainty, and also advanced against other currencies - the euro was down 0.50 percent at 130.24 yen.

Following an overnight bounce, the dollar resumed its recent decline and fell 0.2 percent against a basket of currencies on concerns about the shake-up inside President Donald Trump’s administration and as next week’s Federal Reserve policy meeting comes into focus.

Trump has decided to replace his national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, the Washington Post reported on Thursday.

Earlier this week, the U.S. currency took a hit after Trump dismissed Secretary of State Rex Tillerson as investors grew increasingly nervous about the direction U.S. policy might now take following a series departures by key members of staff.

“The best explanation for the impact the ongoing personnel changes taking place in the White House is that the dollar stands to weaken as it gets easier for President Trump to pursue protectionist policies,” said Daisuke Karakama, chief market economist at Mizuho Bank in Tokyo.

The euro ticked higher to $1.2322, with traders pointing to greenback weakness given there was little in the way of data on Friday to drive the single currency.

Sterling rose 0.2 percent to $1.3957, buoyed by media reports that Britain had made significant progress in its talks with the European Union to secure a transition deal.

The Canadian dollar retreated to an eight-month low after soft housing data reinforced views that the Bank of Canada could slow down the pace of its interest rate hikes.

The loonie also came under pressure after President Trump’s comments on commerce with Canada renewed trade concerns.

The Canadian dollar traded down 0.1 percent at C$1.3064 per dollar after reaching C$1.3072, its weakest since late June 2017. (Additional reporting by Shinichi Saoshiro in TOKYO)

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