The dollar eased against the yen on Friday following a report that suggested Japan would be the next target country with which US President Donald Trump will take up trade disputes.
The US currency held in relatively tight ranges against other major peers such as the euro and pound, with the market preparing for the highly anticipated US jobs report due later in the day.
According to a report, President Trump gave some clues to a columnist that he might stake up trade issues with Japan.
The US president has already challenged China, Mexico, Canada, and the European Union on trade issues. He has already accused other countries multiple times of devaluing their currencies and putting the United States at a disadvantage.
The dollar extended its overnight losses and it last traded at 110.57 yen for a loss of 0.17 percent.
“In addition to dollar/yen, other currencies have also declined against the yen. Although the real motive behind Trump’s comments is still unclear at this stage, the market has taken note of the possibility of Japan being affected by a broader trade conflict,” said Shusuke Yamada, who is the currency and equity strategist at Bank of America Merril Lynch in Tokyo.
Trump has expressed displeasure previously toward the large US trade deficit with Japan. However, Washington so far has not asked Tokyo to take specific steps to address the trade imbalance.
“Ongoing NAFTA negotiations with Canada might not provide Trump with much support ahead of the midterm elections, there’s little progress in trade talks with China and car tariff discussions with the European Union have a long way to go,” explained Daisuke Karakam, who is chief market economist at Mizuho Bank. “Under such circumstances it would not be surprising if Trump has decided to turn his focus on Japan.”
Global trade concerns continued to give blows to broader risk sentiment, further supporting yen, which is seen as a safe haven.
The euro was down 0.2 percent at 128.39 yen and the pound had dropped 0.2 percent to142.88 yen.
The Australian dollar lost 0.6 percent to 79.20 yen, sliding to a new 21-month trough.
Against the greenback, the Aussie was down 0.5 percent at $0.7163, inching back toward a two-year of $0.7145 reached on Wednesday.
The currency, which is considered as a gauge broader risk sentiment, has taken heavy blows from recent tumult in emerging markets.
An uncertain economic outlook for China, Australia’s major trading partner, has also weighed on the Aussie.
Asian equities sagged across the board on Friday, with a public comment period for proposed US tariffs on an additional $200 billion worth of China imports ending in the day.
The tariffs could go into effect shortly afterward. It would mark a sharp escalation of an ongoing trade conflict between the world’s two biggest economies.
The dollar index, which measures the strength of the greenback against a basket of six other major currencies, was little moved at 95.05 after shedding about 0.2 percent on Thursday, pulling further back from a two-week peak reached on Tuesday amid turmoil in emerging market currencies.