FOREX-Yen, franc surge as new virus variant rattles markets

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By Saikat Chatterjee

LONDON, Nov 26 (Reuters) - The Japanese yen and the Swiss franc surged on Friday, while the Australian dollar and the Norwegian crown slumped, as investors fled for shelter following the discovery of a new coronavirus variant that could resist current vaccines.

Closed U.S. markets for Thanksgiving holidays meant market moves were more volatile in thin trading as traders rushed to dump long positions in the euro and the U. S. dollar.

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Overnight headlines took markets by surprise with little known of the new COVID-19 variant, detected in South Africa, Botswana and Hong Kong. But scientists reckon it has an unusual combination of mutations and may be able to evade immune responses or make it more transmissible.

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The yen jumped 1% versus the dollar JPY=EBS while the euro fell to near 6-1/2 year lows against the Swiss franc EURCHF=EBS at 1.044 francs per euro.

This is a textbook flight to quality into yen and the Swiss franc on the new virus strain with the thin liquidity also a factor which may accelerate the unwinding of short bond positions, said Kenneth Broux, a strategist at Societe Generale in London.

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