Currencies in South Africa, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand crumble as market volatility shoots up

PUBLISHED: Mon, 09 Mar 2020 08:45:05 GMT


  • The South African rand plunged over 4% against the dollar to R16.28, as it reported three cases of covid-19 and Moody’s cut its growth forecast.
  • The Australian dollar fell as much as 2.60% against the greenback to $0.6476, while the New Zealand dollar tumbled by as much as 2.28% to change hands at $0.6228.
  • The Korean won declined more than 1% against the dollar, prompting South Korea’s finance ministry to issue a verbal warning against “excessive” movements in the currency market, according to a Reuters report.

By Weizhen Tan@WEIZENT
Major Asia Pacific currencies dropped against the U.S. dollar on Monday morning, as investors took a risk-off approach with volatility across markets shooting up over an oil price war.

The Australian dollar fell as much as 2.60% against the greenback to $0.6476, while the New Zealand dollar tumbled by as much as 2.28% to last change hands at $0.6228.

The Korean won declined more than 1% against the dollar, prompting South Korea’s finance ministry to issue a verbal warning against “excessive” movements in the currency market, according to a Reuters report.

“We’re closely monitoring speculative transactions that seems to be taking advantage of unstable market sentiment. The herd-like behavior (in the won) seems excessive short-term,” a finance ministry official told Reuters. Investors tend to regard phone messages from foreign exchange authorities as official verbal interventions in the onshore currency market, according to Reuters.

Meanwhile, investors flocked to the safe-haven Japanese yen which soared more than 3% against the dollar to last settle at 102.10, dramatically strengthening from levels above 108 early last week.

But Japan’s Finance Minister Taro Aso warned against investors rapidly driving up the yen, saying the government will watch the currency spike closely, describing them as “nervous moves,” according to Reuters.

“We must watch currency and stock market moves for a while. We’ll examine them carefully,” Aso told reporters, according to the report. He declined to comment on whether Japan needs to intervene in the currency market.

Turmoil across markets spiked on Monday during Asia hours. Oil prices plunged as much as 30%, with U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude futures briefly falling to $27.95 per barrel. It came after OPEC’s failure to strike a deal with its allies regarding production cuts. That caused Saudi Arabia to slash its prices as it reportedly gets set to ramp up production, leading to fears of an all-out price war.

Dow futures followed the same trajectory, tumbling more than 1,000 points, with the 10-year Treasury yield dropping below 0.5% for the first time ever as price war fears coupled with coronavirus concerns sent investors flocking to safety.

Markets across Asia dived on Monday morning. Shares in Japan plummeted more than 6%, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index dropped almost 4%. South Korea’s markets declined more than 4%.

Australian markets also tumbled nearly 6%, with energy stocks taking a beating.

— CNBC’s Pippa Stevens and Yun Li contributed to this report.

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