By Saikat Chatterjee and Hideyuki Sano
TOKYO/LONDON (Reuters) – The euro fell to a four-and-a-half-year low against the Swiss franc on Thursday and the yen gained as investors sought safe havens after China’s Hubei province, the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak, reported a sharp increase in the number of new cases.
Using a new method of diagnosis, the province reported on Thursday 14,840 new cases of the virus as of Feb. 12, up from 1,638 new cases on Tuesday. The number of deaths in the province rose by 242, a daily record, to 1,310.
“Taken together, it suggests fading the overnight reaction,” said Elsa Lignos, global head of FX strategy at RBC Capital Markets.
The initial move was to dump risky assets, however. After weakening to a three-and-a-half-week low the day before, the yen gained 0.3% against the dollar on Thursday <JPY=EBS> to 109.770 yen.
The euro dipped to 1.0622 francs, below its 2016 trough of 1.0623 and its lowest level since August 2015. It last stood around 1.06235 <EURCHF=>.
“When you see numbers like this, you can’t help but move to risk-off trades, which means buy the yen and sell stocks,” said Ayako Sera, market strategist at Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Bank in Tokyo.
In the onshore market, the yuan <CNY=CFXS> slipped 0.13% to 6.9809 per dollar. The offshore yuan <CNH=D3> dropped 0.14% to 6.9830.
The Australian dollar <AUD=D3>, widely used as a proxy for risk on Chinese assets, fell 0.22% to $0.6724. The New Zealand dollar <NZD=D3> slipped 0.2% to $0.6453.
(Reporting by Saikat Chatterjee and Hideyuki Sano; editing by Larry King)