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Dollar flirts with key 160 yen level as intervention risk looms

By Thomson Reuters Jun 24, 2024 | 7:52 PM

By Rae Wee

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – The battered yen languished near the 160 per dollar level on Tuesday and kept traders on high alert for any intervention from Japanese authorities to prop up the currency, while the greenback edged a touch higher in the broader market.

Bitcoin was nursing losses after clocking its worst day in over two months at the start of the week, in part due to flows out of bitcoin exchange-traded funds (ETFs), analysts said.

The dollar was last 0.04% higher at 159.64 yen, just a whisker away from the 160 level that prompted a 9.79 trillion yen ($61.33 billion) currency intervention from Tokyo in late April and early May.

The threat of another intervention kept traders leery of testing the key resistance level, leaving the yen trading in a tight range.

“The market is showing…that they are nervous, and they are very much on edge about this situation,” said Chris Weston, head of research at Pepperstone.

“There are inherent risks to being short the Japanese yen now as a carry trade, which is of course what (authorities) want to see.

“The first port of call is to tell currency speculators and people holding for carry that you’re on notice, if you hold those positions now, you run the risk of a 400, 500-pip drop in dollar/yen.”

The latest decline in the yen has come on the back of the Bank of Japan’s (BOJ) June policy meeting, where policymakers disappointed investors who were betting on an immediate reduction of the BOJ’s massive bond purchases.

Minutes of the meeting out on Monday showed the central bank debated the chance of a near-term interest rate hike with one policymaker calling for an increase “without too much delay”.

In the broader market, the dollar was on the front foot ahead of Friday’s release of the U.S. personal consumption expenditures (PCE) price index – the Federal Reserve’s preferred measure of inflation.

Sterling edged 0.01% lower to $1.2683, while the Australian dollar fell 0.02% to $0.6655.

The New Zealand dollar similarly slipped 0.04% to $0.6120, standing not too far from an over two-week low hit last week.

Politics were also at the forefront of investors’ minds, with the first U.S. presidential debate between President Joe Biden and his predecessor Donald Trump set for Thursday and French elections due to kick off this weekend.

The euro, which has come under pressure amid political turmoil in France in the wake of President Emmanuel Macron’s shock snap election call earlier this month, last ticked up 0.01% to $1.0734.

Still, the common currency was headed for a monthly loss of about 1%, owing to the political turmoil.

Against a basket of currencies, the dollar steadied at 105.49.

“France’s election will commence on June 30, hence EUR will be affected by political concerns,” said analysts at Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation in a note. “If the unstable political situation continues, EUR will weaken further against USD.”

In cryptocurrencies, bitcoin was last up roughly 1.5% to $60,349, recovering some of its sharp 6.65% fall in the previous session and having hit an over one-month low. [FTX/]

“We’ve seen drawdown, we’ve seen six days in a row of funds coming out of the bitcoin cash ETFs,” said Pepperstone’s Weston.

“Bitcoin, for me, is…a momentum vehicle, and momentum works both ways. If it’s going in one direction and the rate of change is picking up, for me, you stand aside and let the selling happen until it can form a base. And right now, the momentum’s to the downside.”

($1 = 159.6300 yen)

(Reporting by Rae Wee; Editing by Sam Holmes)