TOKYO, Jan 14-The yen rose in Asia on Wednesday as plunging oil prices sent jittery investors into safer assets, while the euro was hit by expectations of more stimulus from the European Central Bank (ECB).
In Tokyo, the dollar slipped to 116.79 yen, from 117.90 yen in New York and well down from levels above 118 yen in Asia earlier Tuesday.
The euro weakened to 137.69 yen from 138.84 yen in US trade while it edged up to $1.1791 from $1.1777, after comments from a key member of the ECB were taken as an indication new stimulus measures could come soon.
“If stocks continue to slump on the idea that low oil prices will become a risk to the US or the global economy, (the) dollar yen will continue to fall,” Masato Yanagiya, head of foreign exchange and money trading at Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp. in New York, told Bloomberg News.
“It’ll be easy for the yen to strengthen amid a flight to quality.”
Investors see the yen as a safe haven currency during times of uncertainty or turmoil.
Equity markets have been shaken by oil prices plunging to near six-year lows with US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for February falling 58 cents to $45.31 on Wednesday, while Brent slipped 54 cents to $46.05.
Both contracts were hammered Tuesday after two members of OPEC said the cartel could not prevent prices from plunging further, despite losing more than 50 percent since June.
The euro was under pressure after Ewald Nowotny, a governor of the Austrian central bank and a member of the ECB’s governing council, highlighted the need for policymakers to tackle the threat of deflation in the eurozone — raising expectations of further monetary easing after the bank’s policy meeting next week.
“It is important that one takes deflation risks seriously and addresses them,” Nowotny said, according to Bloomberg News, adding that the bank was weighing several stimulus measures.
“We shouldn’t wait too long with a reaction.”
In other trading, the ruble took a breather after plunging by around five percent on Tuesday as falling oil prices exacerbated worries about Russia’s energy-export dependent economy.
The dollar was at 65.20 rubles, down from levels above 66 rubles on Tuesday.
The greenback was mixed against other Asia-Pacific currencies.
It edged up to 62.15 Indian rupees from 62.11 rupees on Tuesday, and to Sg$1.3356 from Sg$1.3352.
The US unit weakened to 44.68 Philippine pesos from 44.81 pesos, to Tw$31.79 from Tw$31.82, to 12,605 Indonesian rupiah from 12,611 rupiah, and to 32.78 Thai baht from 32.86 baht.
The Australian dollar fell to 80.91 US cents from 81.69 cents while the Chinese yuan was at 18.91 yen from 19.07 yen.