By Daniel Leussink
TOKYO (Reuters) – The Mexican peso jumped against the dollar on Monday after the United States and Mexico struck a migration deal late last week to avert a tariff war, providing some much-needed relief to fragile market sentiment.
Over the past year, trade disputes between the United States and its trading partners, including a long-running conflict with China, have slowed global growth and unsettled financial markets.
China’s exports unexpectedly returned to growth in May despite higher U.S. tariffs, data showed on Monday, but many suspected the rise was due to firms front-loading shipments to avoid higher U.S. tariffs. Fears of a longer U.S.-China trade war continued to persist.
The figures showed imports in May dropped 8.5% from a year earlier, a much worse than expected outcome that signaled weak domestic consumption and weighed on the yuan.
The Mexican peso rose 2% to 19.2275 pesos per dollar after trading resumed for the first time after Mexico agreed on Friday to expand along the entire border a program that sends migrants seeking asylum in the United States to Mexico.
U.S. President Donald Trump had threatened to impose 5% import tariffs on all Mexican goods starting on Monday if Mexico did not commit to do more to tighten its borders.
“We all knew that Donald Trump was unpredictable, but this was taking it to a whole new level,” said Chris Weston, Melbourne-based head of research at foreign exchange brokerage Pepperstone.
“This was political, it was social. It meant that financial markets had to wear a higher risk premium.”
Futures for the S&P 500 were last up 0.2%. Benchmark 10-year Treasury yields jumped back 3 basis points to 2.114% after hitting a 21-month low of 2.053% on Friday after soft U.S. jobs data.
Against the safe-haven yen, the dollar gained 0.25% to 108.475 yen. The yen gained in late May on the deteriorating global trade outlook as the currency tends to benefit during geopolitical or financial stress as Japan is the world’s biggest creditor nation.
Bart Wakabayashi, Tokyo branch manager at State Street (NYSE:STT) Bank, said the lift to sentiment from the U.S.-Mexico deal would “probably spill over to optimism with China and hopefully some progress there.”
“We’ve had trade talks with the EU, with Japan. Hopefully these will start to turn to the positive narrative which should see further dollar weakness in the yen,” he said.
Still, the dollar’s gains were checked by rising expectations the Federal Reserve will cut interest rates during the second half of the year.
Those views were bolstered on Friday when data showed nonfarm payrolls increased by 75,000 jobs last month, much smaller than the 185,000 additions estimated by economists in a Reuters poll, suggesting the loss of momentum in economic activity was spreading to the labor market.
Fed funds rate futures are still pricing in more than two 25-basis-point rate hikes by the end of this year even after their retreat early on Monday after the U.S.-Mexico migration deal.
“The market is saying it is not a question of if, it is a question of when, and to what extent, we’re going to get a rate cut for this year,” said Pepperstone’s Weston.
Against a basket of six peers, the dollar rose 0.2% to 96.750, recovering slightly after ending with a 1.2% loss last week, its worst weekly performance since the week of Feb. 16, 2018.
Group of 20 finance leaders said on Sunday that trade and geopolitical tensions have “intensified”, raising risks to improving global growth, but they stopped short of calling for a resolution of the deepening U.S.-China trade conflict.
Elsewhere, the Chinese yuan was last down about 0.3% at 6.9336 per dollar in onshore trade after briefly brushing its lowest since late November in the wake of the weak import data.
The Australian dollar slipped 0.4% to $0.6973, giving up some of last week’s gains, when it rose 0.9%.
The euro dipped nearly 0.2% to $1.1313, retreating from an 11-week high of $1.1348 touched on Friday.