TOKYO: The yen slipped Monday on speculation Tokyo will postpone a sales tax rise to avoid denting Japan’s already fragile economy, while a lackluster string of Chinese data took a bite out of emerging currencies.
Japan’s leading Nikkei business daily said at the weekend that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had told officials he wants to delay raising the consumption tax to 10 percent, planned for 2017.
The last rise, to eight from five percent in April 2014 — the nation’s first in 17 years — was blamed for stalling a nascent recovery and pushing Japan into recession from which it has barely recovered.
Japan publishes quarterly GDP figures Wednesday, and many observers expect the world’s number three economy fell into recession during the January-March period.
On Monday in Tokyo, the dollar was higher at 108.73 yen from 108.63 yen Friday in New York, while the euro climbed to 122.97 yen from 122.85 yen. The single currency was nearly flat at $1.1312 against $1.1309.
The yen regained some lost ground in afternoon trading, however, despite Japan’s top currency official warning that the unit’s recent surge threatened the economy.
It was the latest in a string of comments from Japanese officials who appear to be trying to talk down the yen after the unit surged to 18-month highs against the greenback recently.
Meanwhile the dollar has won support from speculation the Federal Reserve could lift borrowing costs sooner rather than later as the world’s top economy picks up.
New data on Friday showed US consumer spending jumped far quicker than expected in April, fueling talk of another increase in interest rates.
Emerging currencies on Monday were hit by underwhelming figures at the weekend that showed more weakness in China — the world’s number two economy and a key driver of global growth.
Industrial output, retail sales and fixed asset investment all came in below expectations.
In response, the South Korean won lost 0.6 percent against the greenback, while the Malaysian ringgit, Indonesia’s rupiah and the Taiwan dollar were also down.
“Weakness in the latest Chinese economic figures has dampened appetite for emerging-market assets,” Jeon Seung Ji, a Seoul-based currency analyst at Samsung Futures, told Bloomberg News. “Retail data renewed speculation of a US rate hike, and this has turned the dollar stronger.” AFP