Futures & Commodities

Yen gains as Fed rate cuts fails to boost risk appetite

A one kilo Swiss gold bar and US dollars gold coins are pictured in Paris on February 20, 2020.
JOEL SAGET| AFP via Getty Images

The safe haven Japanese yen jumped on Monday as concerns about the spreading coronavirus sent investors running from higher risk assets, even after the U.S. Federal Reserve slashed rates to zero and launched new quantitative easing.

The Fed cut U.S. interest rates on Sunday and said it would expand its balance sheet by at least $700 billion in the coming weeks.

The move is expected to help resolve some market dislocations including illiquidity in the U.S. Treasury market, but it may not benefit companies that are struggling as people avoid going out because of the virus, and as businesses face mandatory shutdowns.

"What's needed is more direct support to industries that are hit directly by the virus. That can only be provided by fiscal policy, and governments have not shown the same swift reaction that central banks have," said Marshall Gittler, head of investment research at BDSwiss Group.

The dollar dipped 2.19% to 105.55 yen.

The euro gained 0.33% against the greenback to $1.114.

The greenback has gained in the past week as companies draw on credit lines and bank lenders seek out the currency to fund the loans. That has led to strains in sourcing dollars.

To address this, the Fed and other major foreign central banks also cut pricing on their swap lines to make it easier to provide dollars to financial institutions around the world.

Multiple global central banks acted to ease conditions on Monday.

The Bank of Japan said at an emergency meeting it would buy more corporate bonds, commercial debt and establish a new corporate lending scheme. New Zealand's central bank slashed rates in an emergency move while the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) injected extra cash into the financial system.

The People's Bank of China also injected 100 billion yuan ($14.28 billion) into financial institutions on Monday.

The move came minutes before data showed China's retail sales, industrial output and fixed-asset investment all tumbled in January and February.

"The measures introduced to stop the spread of the virus in China may have led to a sharper slowdown in activity than will be the case elsewhere, but it's clear that the measures central banks have taken, and whatever they do next, cannot prevent a major economic hit being felt globally," Societe Generale strategist Kit Juckes said.

The dollar gained 0.07% against the offshore yuan to 7.025.