February 3, 2020 / 12:46 AM / 19 days ago

FOREX-Yuan, Aussie on tenterhooks ahead of China market re-opening

* A$ near decade low; all eyes on Shanghai reopening markets

* Yen, franc supported by virus uncertainty

* Graphic: World FX rates in 2020 tmsnrt.rs/2RBWI5E

By Hideyuki Sano

TOKYO, Feb 3 (Reuters) - China’s yuan and its proxy, the Australian dollar, were poised for vulnerable day of trade on Monday in favour of safe-harbour currencies, in reaction to authorities’ drastic steps worldwide to curb the spread of a new virus which originated in China.

Immediate focus was on how China’s financial markets would fare when they reopen later in the day, after a Lunar New Year break that was extended to help stop a coronavirus which has killed as many as 350 people in China’s Hubei province.

Overseas, Australia, Singapore and the United States are among countries to have ramped up border controls, banning entry by foreign nationals who have recently visited China.

Ahead of the start of onshore trade, the offshore yuan firmed 0.1% to 6.9889 yuan per dollar, hovering near Friday’s one-month low of 7.0070 yuan.

The Australian dollar fetched $0.66875, just a hair above its 10 1/2-year low of $0.6670 touched last October. The currency is often regarded as a yuan proxy as it is more freely traded and because of Australia’s reliance on trade with China.

“Given the current fragile sentiment, I would not be surprised to see the Australian dollar slipping below its previous 10-year low,” said senior strategist Yukio Ishizuki at Daiwa Securities.

To prevent economic paralysis triggered by the outbreak, China’s central bank said it will inject 1.2 trillion yuan ($173.81 billion) worth of liquidity into financial markets via reverse repo operations on Monday.

Still, uncertainty created by the epidemic is keeping investors cautious, helping support safe-harbour currencies.

The yen traded at 108.33 yen per dollar, approaching its highest level since Jan. 8.

The Swiss franc changed hands at 0.96335 franc per dollar , near its 15-month high of 0.96135 set last month.

Against the euro, the franc stood at 1.06855 per euro , just below its 33-month high of 1.0666 touched last week.

The euro stood at $1.1084, having risen 0.6% last week for its first weekly gain in five weeks. However, a boost on Friday was due mostly to month-end money flows from European exporters.

Elsewhere, sterling fell 0.2% to $1.3174 in early trade.

Britain laid out a tough opening stance for future talks with the European Union following its exit last week, saying it would set its own agenda rather than meeting the bloc’s rules.

Sentiment toward sterling may also be coloured by a stabbing incident in London on Sunday, which police described as a terrorist incident. ($1 = 6.9040 Chinese yuan renminbi)

Reporting by Hideyuki Sano; Editing by Christopher Cushing

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