China’s yuan finds its feet on WHO confidence, Aussie extends slide


LONDON: China’s yuan steadied on Friday while the Australian and New Zealand dollars weakened again as World Health Organization confidence in China’s response to the new coronavirus was offset by concerns about the economic impact of the disease. The WHO said late on Thursday that the coronavirus outbreak was a global emergency, but opposed travel restrictions and said China’s actions so far would “reverse the tide” of its spread.
The WHO’s assured tone was enough to pause a rush to safety that has for two weeks pounded stocks and hammered currencies and commodities exposed to China.
The yen and Swiss franc weakened slightly, suggesting a slightly better mood among investors on Friday.
China’s offshore yuan rose marginally to 6.9801 CNH=EBS, some way off the 7.0038 low it hit on Thursday as investors fretted about the hit to the Chinese economy from the virus.
The death toll in China has now reached 213 and the number of cases is 9,692 – up from 7,711 a day ago. It has spread to 18 countries. The U.S. has warned citizens against visiting China.
“While the WHO does not recommend a travel and trade restriction, the impact on China’s economy is likely to materialize gradually, which will yield an international impact as China plays an essential role in the global supply chain,” Commerzbank economist Hao Zhou said.
The Australian and New Zealand dollars, both sensitive to sentiment in China, fell to new multi-month lows.
The New Zealand dollar NZD=D3 dropped 0.4% and touched a two-month low of $0.6468. The Australian dollar AUD=D3 lost 0.4% to $0.6699, a four-month low.
Both have shed more than 1.5% this week and the Aussie has dropped more than 4% this month, leaving it poised for its worst month since May 2016.
“Aussie and kiwi are what I’ve called the whipping boys, if you like, for expressing concern about the spreading of the virus and its potential global economic ramifications,” said Ray Attrill, Head of FX Strategy at National Australia Bank.
Elsewhere other major currencies were quiet, with euro/dollar little moved at $1.1025 EUR=EBS ahead of euro zone flash inflation and GDP data due at 1000 GMT.
The dollar index was unchanged at 97.896 .DXY.
Sterling rose another 0.3%, extending its run after the Bank of England kept interest rates on hold, citing a relatively more upbeat economic outlook. The pound was last up 0.3% at $1.3136 GBP=D3.
Versus the euro it rallied 0.4% to 83.90 pence EURGBP=D3.