The offshore Chinese yuan weakened versus the greenback to its lowest level in nearly a month on Monday, as worries about the fallout from property developer Evergrande's solvency issues spooked financial markets and lifted safe-haven currencies.
Market sentiment has been rattled by the potential contagion from Evergrande, which is trying to raise funds to pay a host of lenders, suppliers and investors. A deadline for an $83.5 million interest payment on one of its bonds is due on Thursday, and the company has $305 billion in liabilities.
On Thursday, the yuan hit its highest level in three months at 6.4226 per dollar before starting to reverse as Evergrande's woes worsened. The move sharpened on Monday after warnings from Chinese regulators that the company's insolvency could fuel broader risks in the country's financial system if not stabilized.
"We are seeing a classic flight to safety in the dollar until we get some sense of clarity on whether or not it is going to be an orderly or disorderly resolution to Evergrande," said Joe Manimbo, senior market analyst at Western Union Business Solutions in Washington DC. "We were likely to see a continuation of the decline we’ve seen in risk assets going into this week -- and you throw in Evergrande and it has really unsettled the markets."
The dollar and other safe-haven currencies strengthened with the risk-off sentiment, which saw Wall Street's S&P 500 Index on pace for its biggest one-day percentage drop in more than four months. The dollar index rose 0.03%, with the euro up 0.02% to $1.1727.
The dollar has also been gaining ground on expectations the Federal Reserve will begin reducing its monthly bond purchases this year, with the central bank's policy announcement due on Wednesday.
Aside from the Fed, multiple central banks around the globe will hold policy meetings this week, including those of Sweden, England, and Norway. The Japanese yen strengthened 0.46% versus the greenback at 109.47 per dollar, while sterling was last trading at $1.3659, down 0.60% on the day.
Crytocurrencies Suffering, Too
The Canadian dollar, also a commodity currency that correlates with risk sentiment, weakened to as low as C$1.2985 per dollar, its lowest level in four weeks. Polling for Monday's national election in Canada points to an advantage for incumbent Prime Minister Justin Trudeau but a likelihood that he remains leader of a minority government.
In cryptocurrencies, bitcoin last fell 7.52% to $43,693.24.
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