The dollar languished at a five-month low versus the yen early on Wednesday, as simmering geopolitical tensions checked risk appetite and put the safe-haven Japanese currency in favor.
The dollar was at 109.745 yen JPY= after touching 109.535 earlier in the session, its lowest since Nov. 17.
The U.S. currency had slid more than 1 percent the previous day from highs of 110.920, dragged down by a sharp drop in U.S. Treasury yields.
“There was a lot of bids and option barriers lined up around 110 yen, so a breach of this level shows how widespread the latest dollar selling was,” said Junichi Ishikawa, senior forex strategist at IG Securities in Tokyo.
“The yen’s gains against the euro also bears watching, with uncertainty towards the French presidential elections clearly the driving factor.”
The euro, which sank more than 1 percent overnight, extended losses and touched a five-month low of 116.160 yen EURJPY=.
Investors’ flight-to-safety underpinned traditional safe-havens like the yen and Treasuries amid fresh concerns about the French presidential election and possible U.S. military action against Syria and North Korea.
On Tuesday, North Korean state media warned of a nuclear attack on the United States at any sign of American aggression, as a U.S. Navy strike group steamed toward the western Pacific – a force U.S. President Donald Trump described as an “armada”.
And in a new twist to the French elections, a far-left veteran who had been written off as a long shot has now surged into the top four, pushing some pollsters to calculate the most extreme runoff scenarios.
While the euro sagged against the yen, it fared better versus the struggling dollar. The common currency was up 0.1 percent at $1.0610 EUR=, adding to modest overnight gains.
It was a similar story for the pound, which retreated to a near five-month low of 136.85 yen GBPJPY= but edged up against the dollar. Sterling was steady at $1.2490 GBP=D4 after gaining about 0.6 percent overnight.
The Australian dollar, sensitive to shifts in broader risk appetite, was up slightly at $0.7503 AUD=D4 after dropping to a near three-month trough of $0.7475 the previous day. (Shinichi Saoshiro | TOKYO)