(Adds retail data)
By Wayne Cole
SYDNEY, Aug 2 (Reuters) – The Australian and New Zealand dollars were on the ropes on Friday as the threat of new U.S. tariffs against China, hammered risk assets and sent bond yields tumbling to all-time lows.
President Donald Trump stunned markets on Thursday by tweeting he would impose a 10% tariff on the remaining $300 billion of Chinese imports starting Sept. 1, ending a truce in the U.S.-China trade war.
Fearing the negative fallout on business investment, investors rushed to wager on ever-more aggressive stimulus from central banks at home and abroad.
Another easing from the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) is now more than fully priced for November and the cash rate is seen halving to 0.5% by the middle of next year.
Domestic data offered some temporary help when retail sales pipped forecasts with a rise of 0.4% for June, though sales volumes for the whole second quarter were soft again and underlined the sluggish state of demand.
“For the Federal Reserve, and all global central banks, an intensification of the trade war will underpin fears that this could spillover to the domestic economy,” warned Tapas Strickland, a director of economics at NAB.
“It puts them on the track for more “insurance cuts” and increases the probability that this could transform into a protracted easing cycle.”
The initial reaction was a stampede into the safe-harbour of the Japanese yen, with the Aussie sinking 1.9% overnight in the sharpest daily drop since May 2017.
On Friday, it was off at 73.00 yen, lows last seen only fleetingly during the flash crash of early January and a loss for the week of 2.8%.
BORROWING AUSSIE TO BUY GOLD
“These newly announced tariffs have come as a complete shock, after positive headlines as they related to the U.S.-China trade talks this week,” said Alan Ruskin, chief international strategist at Deutsche Bank.
“Tariff related risk-off events tend to be multi-week and usually have considerable run in them,” he added, noting investors tended to go long of the yen and long gold against the Aussie during such episodes.
In Australian dollar terms, gold shot up 2.2% overnight to an all-time peak of A$2,126 an ounce.
The Aussie took an added hit by being a liquid proxy for China risk, given the Asian giant takes over a third of Australia’s entire exports.
That left it down at $0.6814 having slumped 0.7% overnight to be down 1.4% on the week so far. The last time it spent any time at these depths was during the global financial crisis in late 2008 and early 2009.
Likewise, the kiwi touched its lowest against the yen since June 2016 at 69.97, after shedding 1.4% overnight. It hit a six-week low on the U.S. dollar and was last at $0.6545 , a loss of 1.3% for the week.
The Reserve Bank of New Zealand (RBNZ) holds a policy meeting next week and futures now imply a 100% probability of a quarter point rate cut to 1.25%, and likely a move under 1% in the first half of 2020.
Yields on two-year bonds were already down at an historic low of just 1%, while 10-year yields dropped to 1.48%.
In Australia, yields on the liquid three-year bond also reached record lows at 0.75% to be down a huge 108 basis points for the year so far.
The 10-year bond futures contract surged 11.5 ticks to 98.9000, implying a yield of 1.10%. (Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)