NEW YORK (Reuters) - Emerging market currencies were battered on Friday as global investors scrambled for shelter from a broad financial markets selloff by buying dollars, yen and Swiss francs.
The Japanese yen surged to a seven-week high against the dollar, while the Swiss franc touched a four-week peak against the euro as U.S. stocks tumbled and safe-haven Treasuries gained.
“The adjustment process is showing through in emerging market FX rates, particular those of Turkey and Argentina,” said currency strategist Mark McCormick at Credit Agricole in New York. “The G10 currencies, especially the yen, are benefiting.”
This week the Turkish lira continued an extended slide and plunged to a record low against the dollar.
The Argentine peso this week suffered its largest one-day decline in more than a decade, and Argentine officials on Friday loosened strict foreign exchange rules amid continued peso losses.
The South African rand dropped to its lowest in five years on Friday while the Brazilian real slid to a five-month trough.
“Global investors remain firmly risk-averse; the selloff in emerging markets this week, triggered in part by the steep decline in the Argentinian peso, has fuelled renewed concerns about the eventual withdrawal of liquidity as the Federal Reserve tapers its quantitative easing program,” said Samarjit Shankar, director of market strategy at BNY Mellon in Boston.
BNY’s bond indicators showed that portfolio managers were reducing their exposure to emerging market local currency debt in countries like Indonesia, Thailand and Peru, he said.
The dollar fell to a seven-week low of 101.98 yen and was last at 102.24, down nearly 1 percent, while the euro slid to 1.2222 francs, its weakest since December 18. The euro last traded at 1.2235 francs, 0.4 percent lower.
The euro was down 0.1 percent versus the dollar at $1.3679, having jumped 1.1 percent on Thursday, stalling ahead of resistance at $1.37.
Both the dollar and euro fell as much as 1 percent against the yen, pressured as well by signs of a slowdown in China and broad expectations of a tightening of monetary conditions this year by some central banks.
The dollar index composed of six major currencies was little changed at 80.467 percent. .DXY
Amid a jumbled start to the year for major currency markets, analysts believed money was set to drain out of emerging market economies. Supporting this view, investors have bid strongly for a flurry of large bond issues in the euro zone this month.
That helps explain why, along with lacklustre U.S. data on Thursday, the year’s other big bet of a stronger dollar against the euro has yet to materialize.
“European assets have become a sort of safe haven for investors,” said Alvin Tan, currency strategist at Societe Generale in London.
Data published on Thursday showed the euro zone current account surplus hit a record high in November.
More broadly, the banking and debt crisis that began in 2007 finally appears to be easing in Europe, and this year should see central banks begin to reel in some of the enormous volumes of cash they have pumped into the world economy.
In other currencies, the Australian dollar fell to US$0.8658, its lowest in 3-1/2 years after Reserve Bank of Australia board member Heather Ridout was reported as saying the currency had not fallen enough and that the currency at 80 U.S. cents would be a “fair deal” for the economy.
Sterling has also done well in January, surging to its highest against the dollar in almost three years on Friday on speculation the Bank of England could raise interest rates before the end of the year. But it ended off 0.75 percent in New York at $1.6504.
Additional reporting by Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss and Dan Bases in New York and Patrick Graham in London; Editing by Bernadette Baum and James Dalgleish