SINGAPORE/TOKYO (Reuters) – The yen gained against the dollar and other currencies in early Asian trade on Monday, as investors trimmed their exposure to higher-risk assets after North Korea conducted its most powerful nuclear test.
The dollar fell to as low as 109.22 yen JPY= in early trade and last stood at 109.87 yen, down 0.3 percent from levels seen in late U.S. trade on Friday.
The euro was 0.2 percent lower at 130.59 yen EURJPY=, having fallen to 129.65 earlier.
The yen almost always gains when investors try to reduce exposure to risk because the currency is often used as a funding source to buy riskier, higher-yielding assets.
Japan is also the world’s largest net creditor nation and at times of uncertainty, traders assume Japanese repatriation from foreign countries will outweigh foreign investors selling of Japanese assets. The yen has continued to behave as a safe-haven currency despite Japan’s proximity to North Korea.
The fact that the yen has pared its gains after pushing higher initially, suggests that market participants are not expecting any prolonged market turmoil following North Korea’s latest nuclear test, said Steven Dooley, currency strategist for Western Union Business Solutions in Melbourne.
Market participants probably regard North Korea’s actions as attempts to gain negotiating advantage, he added.
“Typically that is how it has played out previously. They increased their rhetoric, increased their belligerence in order to gain negotiating advantage,” Dooley said.
“You would expect to see a sharper move to the downside if markets were assuming that this was going to lead to…military conflict,” he said, referring to moves in the dollar versus the yen.
Following the latest nuclear test, which Pyongyang said was a hydrogen bomb, U.S. President Donald Trump refused to rule out military action and threatened to cut off trade with any country doing business with Pyongyang.
U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis said Trump asked to be briefed on all available military options.
Reporting by Masayuki Kitano in Singapore and Hideyuki Sano in Tokyo; Editing by Mary Milliken and Sam Holmes