The safe-haven Japanese yen was firm and the Chinese yuan fragile on Thursday as traders kept a wary eye on the spread of a virus in China, while the ailing Australian dollar jumped after a surprise drop in unemployment.
Deaths from the flu-like coronavirus, rose to 17 on Wednesday. A total of 571 cases have now been confirmed and Chinese state media reported overnight that transport to and from the city of Wuhan in central China, where the outbreak originated, is to be shut from 0200 GMT.
The Japanese yen, seen as a haven by virtue of Japan’s position as the world’s largest creditor, rose 0.1% to a two week high of 109.65 per dollar as investors sought safety.
The U.S. dollar was otherwise steady, holding at about $1.1093 per euro and at 97.527 against a basket of currencies.
Elsewhere the Australian dollar, which has shed more than a cent this year as the domestic economy stalls, rose 0.5% to $0.6877 after jobs data showed an unexpected drop in unemployment.
The British pound sat a fraction below a three-week high at $1.3147, after an overnight rebound in manufacturing sentiment prompted investors to trim rate cut bets.