TOKYO–Investors shifted out of the euro Friday and into the safety of the dollar and yen as a crisis at Portugal’s largest listed bank revived fears about European debt. The euro fetched US$1.3601 in Tokyo afternoon trade Friday, slightly down from US$1.3609 late Thursday in New York and well down from US$1.3640 earlier Thursday. The common currency also dipped to 137.74 yen from 137.88 yen in New York and 138.50 yen Thursday in Asia. The dollar was changing hands at 101.27 yen, against 101.32 yen. Markets across Europe and on Wall Street were rattled Thursday after it emerged that the parent of Banco Espirito Santo (BES) had covered up a US$1.8 billion hole in its accounts and failed to make payments on some short-term debt. All three main indexes in New York ended lower, while London, Frankfurt and Paris also saw hefty losses as the news brought back memories of the eurozone sovereign and banking debt crisis of 2011 that saw a number of nations go to the wall. Shares in Lisbon dived more than four percent. Tokyo stocks ended down 0.34 percent Friday. “Markets are left torn between viewing this news as BES-specific or something more systematic,” National Australia Bank said in a statement. “At one point during the night … the U.S. dollar attracted a traditional safe haven bid” alongside an equally traditional drop in the dollar-yen exchange rate, it said. The dollar fell as low as 101.06 yen in New York as traders shifted into what is considered a safer bet in times of economic and political uncertainty. However, in the near term the scope for the Japanese currency to rally on the back of risk-off sentiment could be limited, said Yunosuke Ikeda, head of FX strategy at Nomura Securities.
Indonesia’s rupiah dropped against the greenback as anxiety grows that fraud and dirty tactics could twist official results in Indonesia’s knife-edge election due to be announced by July 22. The dollar was quoted at 11,587 rupiah Friday, compared with 11,555 rupiah Thursday. The dollar climbed against most other Asia-Pacific currencies. It firmed to SG$1.2427 from SG$1.2411 on Thursday, to 32.21 Thai baht from to 32.16 baht and to 43.50 Philippines pesos from 43.30 pesos. It also advanced to 60.16 Indian rupees from 59.78 rupees, and to 1,020.15 South Korean won from 1,013.45 won. The Australian dollar fell to 93.86 U.S. cents from 93.92 cents, while the Chinese yuan fetched 16.31 yen against 16.38 yen.