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Demand for havens drove the Swiss franc to a record high against the dollar as crude prices surged in the wake of the latest wave of violence to strike North African oil producer Libya.
As global equity markets resumed their sell off, with many extending losses into a fourth-consecutive session, investors sought safety, hurting the currencies of emerging markets and boosting the likes of the Swiss franc and Japan’s yen.
“The traditional safe haven currencies of the yen and the Swiss franc are currently outperforming as fears build that escalating social and political tensions in Africa and the Middle East will lead to a significant supply-driven oil price shock dealing a sizeable negative blow to global growth,” said Lee Hardman at Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi UFJ.
The Swiss franc last peaked against the dollar and the euro in late December when the market’s predominant concern was eurozone sovereign debt.
Although the euro has since recovered some ground, on Thursday the Swiss franc climbed to a new record versus the dollar.
The US currency fell to a low of SFr0.9238 and by mid-morning in London.
Dollar weakness may have been prompted, analysts said, by an International Monetary Fund report that suggested the lack of fiscal tightening measures in the US increased the risk of higher borrowing costs, which could hurt global growth.
Furthermore, the euro was helped by an economic sentiment survey that showed a rebound in confidence in February following a blip lower in January.
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