Trade talks leave forex traders feeling uncertain

Denise Jackson

Foreign exchange traders were left mostly in the dark on Wednesday and into Thursday about the progress of high-level trade talks between the US and China.

The earlier news from the day was negative, with one press report suggesting that China and the US may be unable to make any progress during their talks in Washington.

There was also a suggestion at one stage that Liu He, who is vice premier of China and who is in the country as part of the talks, was planning to head home one day before scheduled.

A later report, published in Bloomberg, suggested that the US is considering a currency pact with its rival.

The talks are taking place between Liu and the US treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin – as well as the official US trade representative.

Time is beginning to run out, however.

The US apparently intends to raise the tariff rate covering $250bn worth of Chinese imports from its current position of 25% to 30% – as early as next Tuesday.

The consequence of the news was that the dollar was pushed firmly out of favour – despite a series of good runs over the last few days.

In its pair with the single European currency, the dollar dropped by a fifth of a percentage point – and it was seen at $1.0987 at one stage.

The same went in its pair with the pound sterling, despite the fact that that currency is facing enormous domestic pressures due to the ongoing impact of Brexit.

The pound was seen at $1.2228 in its pair with the US dollar.

In Brexit news, talks between Irish taoiseach Leo Varadkar and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson are expected to take place today.

It is understood that all sides in the debate consider progress on a Brexit deal to now be unlikely, although the talks – in the North West of England – are aimed at achieving that.

The US dollar index, which tracks the currency in comparison to several other major ones around the world, was down by 0.1% over the course of the day.

The trade war news also had consequences for other currencies too.

The offshore Chinese yuan was seen at its highest position in two weeks – which was a far cry from its previous position of a monthly low.

The consequence for the Japanese yen was also strong, at least at first.

It responded well to the less positive news, and at one point it was up thanks to a suggestion in a Hong Kong newspaper that the talks between American and Chinese officials were headed for more deadlock.

It tends to perform well when signs that trade barriers might be firming are revealed.

However, it later lost its surge when the second report, covering a potential currency deal, was revealed.

Elsewhere, the Australian dollar – which tends to see its fortunes rise and fall in direct proportion to those of the Chinese yuan due to the nature of the trading relationship between the two countries – was up too.

The same went for its near neighbour, the New Zealand dollar.

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