The Swiss franc on Wednesday held near the day’s highs after posting its biggest single-day rise against the euro since the central bank removed its cap on the currency in January 2015.
Despite the spike, broader market volatility was broadly muted with a gauge measuring expected equity market swings holding well below a May high of 15.5, suggesting further gains may be difficult.
Traders said hedge funds had cut leveraged bets against the franc, prompted in part by worries about increased U.S.-North Korea tension, though some analysts said gains may be overdone.
Manuel Oliveri, an FX strategist at Credit Agricole in London, said further gains in the franc were likely to trigger renewed risk of currency intervention by its central bank as it seems to be pursuing a policy of gradual currency weakness.
The franc jumped 1.4 percent to 1.1272 francs per euro in early trades, its biggest daily rise in more than 2-1/2 years before settling at 1.1315.
“The overnight Korean news has prompted some unwinding of the cheapening trades on the franc that has been going on for some time and though positioning is not stretched by any means, the franc’s strength may have room to run,” said Timothy Graf, head of macro strategy at State Street Global Markets in London.
Against the dollar, the franc surged 0.6 percent to 0.9688 francs, reversing a two-week losing streak.
North Korea said on Wednesday it is “carefully examining” plans for a missile strike on the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam, just hours after U.S. President Donald Trump told the North that any threat it presented to the United States would be met with “fire and fury”
“Heightened geopolitical risks overnight have seen the markets flip from risk-on to risk-off and we have to wait and see how long this move runs before adding some positions,” said Viraj Patel, an FX strategist at ING in London.
The franc was not the only beneficiary to the risk-off sentiment sweeping markets.
German bond yields fell, gold and the Japanese yen surged and the leveraged bets on higher yielding currencies such as the Australian dollar took a beating.
The dollar weakened against the yen, which is often sought in times of geopolitical tension. The U.S. currency was down 0.5 percent at 109.73 yen, following a retreat to 109.740, its weakest since June 15.
The Australian dollar, which rose to a 19-month high near 90.00 yen late in July, was down 0.7 percent at 86.67 yen after slipping to a one-month low of 86.23 yen.