It took seven minutes for the yen to surge through levels that have held through almost a decade. In those wild minutes from about 9.30am in Sydney, the yen jumped almost 8% against the Australian dollar to its strongest since 2009, and surged 10% against the Turkish lira. The Japanese currency rose at least 1% compared to its group-of-10 peers, bursting through the ¥72 per aussie level that has held through a trade war, a stock rout, Italy’s budget dispute and US Federal Reserve rate hikes.

Traders across Asia and Europe are still seeking to piece together what happened in those minutes when orders flooded in to sell Australia’s dollar and Turkey’s lira against the yen. While some pointed to risk aversion triggered by Apple cutting its sales outlook, others said Japanese retail investors were bailing out of loss-making positions. Whatever the cause, the moves were exacerbated by algorithmic programs and thin liquidity, with Japan on holiday. “The moves were very violent,” sai...

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