LONDON—The offshore Chinese yuan skidded to three-week lows on Monday, dragging down other risk and commodity currencies as worries about property developer Evergrande’s solvency spooked financial markets, while the safe-haven dollar rose.
Only on Friday, the yuan hit its highest level in three months at 6.4297 per dollar. The sharp slump in the currency on Monday came on the back of warnings from Chinese regulators that Evergrande’s insolvency could spark broader risks in the country’s financial system if not stabilized.
Evergrande has been scrambling to raise funds to pay its many lenders, suppliers, and investors. A deadline for the company to make an interest payment to creditors looms this week.
The fall in the yuan down to 6.4698 yuan per dollar—its lowest since Aug. 31—also weighed on the Australian dollar, New Zealand dollar, and Norwegian crown, which all hit levels at or near three-week lows.
The Japanese yen strengthened 0.2 percent to 109.72 yen per dollar, although that was not enough to stop the dollar index benefiting from a safety bid.
Sterling, which also correlates with broader risk sentiment, fell 0.5 percent to a four-week low of $1.3662.
Against a basket of peers, the greenback was up almost 0.2 percent on the day and at its highest in four weeks. Across the Atlantic, the euro was 0.15 percent lower on the day at $1.1707 by 1041 GMT.
“FX markets start the week on a nervous footing, where the biggest threats are faced from the travails of Chinese real estate developer Evergrande and Wednesday’s FOMC (Federal Open Markets Committee) meeting,” said Francesco Pesole, G10 FX strategist at ING.
“Today also sees a tight Canadian election, where a failure to get a clear result may not help a CAD already under pressure as the commodity complex feels the strain.”
The Canadian dollar, also a commodity currency that correlates with risk sentiment, hit its lowest level in four weeks at C$1.2815 per dollar.
Polling for Monday’s national election in Canada points to an advantage for incumbent Prime Minister Justin Trudeau but a likelihood that he remains leader of a minority government.
Central Bank Focus
Looking forward this week, no fewer than a dozen central banks hold meetings, but traders’ top focus is on the Fed where expectations for a tapering signal are keeping the dollar bid.
The U.S. central bank concludes a two-day meeting on Wednesday and consensus is that it will stick with broad plans for tapering this year but will hold off providing details or a timeline for at least a month.
However, creeping U.S. yields—which at the 10-year tenor rose for a fourth straight week last week— point to risks of a hawkish surprise or a shift in projections to show interest hikes as soon as 2022.
“We suspect the Fed may be mildly hawkish in the sense that … (it) is likely to raise its ‘dots’ signaling one rate hike next year and for PMIs to continue a tad lower. If so, euro/dollar will probably finish the week lower too,” said Mikael Olai Milhøj, chief analyst at Danske Bank.
Among the other major central banks, the Bank of England is expected to leave policy settings unchanged, but traders see potential for gains in the pound if the bank adopts a hawkish tone or more members call for asset-purchase tapering.
There is no expectation of policy shifts at the resolutely dovish Bank of Japan on Wednesday, but a day later Norway’s Norges Bank is expected to become the first G10 central bank to lift rates.
“The gradual exit of central banks around the world from their emergency stimulus is likely exacerbating the risk-off trades from the China jitters,” said Raffi Boyadjian, lead investment analyst at online broker XM.
Cryptocurrencies fell, with bitcoin down over 5 percent at $44,587 and ether down 5.6 percent at $3,139.
By Ritvik Carvalho