NEW YORK (Reuters) - Investors moved to the safety of the yen and Swiss franc on Friday, unnerved by escalating tensions between the West and Russia over Ukraine, and also took advantage of higher yielding Pacific currencies.
Mixed U.S. data in recent weeks has left investors without a clear trend, which is now being trumped by the geopolitical concerns in Europe, a combination that has made placing big bets on currency movements high risk endeavors.
“Neither of these two themes are dominant and if you play on one you get hit with the other, which is why today I think we are seeing a little bit of buying of Pacific currencies,” said Steven Englander, global head of G10 FX strategy at CitiFX in New York.
“I wouldn’t say the economic news out of Asia has been good but it is far from the eye of the storm, and if you can pick up a bit of yield there, people are sitting around saying, Why not?” he added.
Next week’s euro zone April flash inflation report and April U.S. employment data are the key economic events that could pull attention away from Ukraine.
The dollar fell to 102.13 yen, down 0.16 percent on the day and its worst levels in a week. The greenback slid 0.04 percent to 0.8808 Swiss francs, having fallen to a one-week low of 0.8798 franc earlier in the day.
The Australian dollar bounced from a 2-1/2 week nadir, to trade at $0.9268, up 0.05 percent. The New Zealand dollar climbed 0.10 percent to $0.8574. The greenback fell 0.82 percent to 60.64 Indian rupees.
With tensions between Ukraine and Russia high, Ukrainian special forces launched a second phase of their operation in the east of the country on Friday, an official on the presidential staff said.
The United States said it was prepared to impose further targeted sanctions on Russia over its actions in Ukraine and that European leaders had agreed to coordinate on steps to make Moscow pay.
Risk aversion has supported the yen, said Credit Agricole FX strategist Manuel Oliveri.
“But geopolitical risks are not having too much of an impact on currencies, with most investors still focused on growth prospects. If risk sentiment improves, the yen will be sold off,” he said.
The euro added 0.06 percent to $1.3839.
Volumes in euro/Danish crown trades picked up for a second day, according to Reuters Matching. The euro recovered from a near three-month low against the crown of 7.4614 to trade at 7.4649 crowns.
The crown strengthened after the Danish central bank surprised the market by raising the rate on certificate of deposits and ending a regime of negative interest rates in a bid to stem outflows and support the currency.
Additional reporting by Anirban Nag in London and Masayuki Kitano in Singapore; Editing by Leslie Adler and Chizu Nomiyama