Tuesday January 22, 2008 - 12:55:20 GMT
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Reuters - www.reuters.com
FOREX NEWS-Yen reverses and weakens as US rate cut hopes mount
(Changes byline, updates prices, adds quotes)
By Jamie McGeever
LONDON, Jan 22 (Reuters) - The yen turned course and
weakened on Tuesday, easing from two-and-a-half-year peaks
against the dollar hit earlier in the day as the global stock
market rout fuelled speculation of an emergency U.S. interest
Federal Reserve action could shore up confidence in battered
markets and limit the damage being inflicted on the U.S. economy
from the financial turmoil, thus boosting investor appetite for
carry trades again.
Asian and European equities had earlier dived as fears of a
U.S. recession spread like wildfire, prompting currency traders
to unwind carry trades and push the yen to its highest level
against the dollar since May 2005.
These moves and deep underlying nervousness fuelled
speculation the Federal Reserve will deliver an emergency rate
cut of up perhaps 75 basis points before the Wall Street open to
shore up confidence in battered financial markets.
Rate cut hopes and a desperate need for some respite took
the steam out of the yen's rally. But with U.S. stock futures
still pointing to losses of around 4-5 percent at the open and
Bank of America announcing over $5 billion in fourth quarter
writedowns (BAC.N: Quote, Profile, Research), markets remain extremely nervous.
"Everyone is positioning for a cut but I think they'll be
disappointed," said Russell Bloom, analyst at Action Economics
"Markets are hoping for a policy response out of the U.S.
today but what that is remains to be seen. Investors are
squaring up ahead of the U.S. session," agreed Russell Jones,
head of currency strategy at RBC Capital Markets in London.
At 1225 GMT the dollar was up 0.2 percent on the day versus
the yen at 106.20 yen <JPY=>, having earlier fallen as low as
105.63 yen. That marked a near 5 percent decline this month, on
track for the pair's biggest monthly loss in years.
The euro also bounced back against the yen, up 0.5 percent
at 154 yen <EURJPY=>, having earlier traded at a five-month low
of 152.12 yen.
The euro rebounded from a one-month low against the dollar
below $1.4490 <EUR=>.
ALL EYES ON FED
The Nikkei stocks average .N225 and emerging equities
.MSCIEF tumbled more than 5 percent, while European stocks
dropped as much as 4 percent before recovering some ground.
All eyes are now on U.S. equities and the policy response to
the market crisis unravelling this week.
"The question then is whether the selloff in equities to
date, including the decline that is being priced into U.S.
futures markets today after yesterday's global markets plunge,
could force officials to move just one week before their
scheduled January 29-30 meeting," wrote UBS strategists in a
note to clients.
"The risk has clearly risen. Whether they act quickly or
wait will likely depend on whether the roughly 5 percent decline
in the U.S. market currently being signalled by futures is pared
back or added to in U.S. trading today."
UBS now predicts a U.S. recession this year, albeit a mild
Interest rate futures expect the Fed to slash benchmark
rates to below 2.5 percent this year from 4.25 percent
currently, starting with 75 basis points of easing this month,
perhaps even before the U.S. stock market open on Tuesday.
Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson is due to deliver scheduled
remarks on the economy at 1300 GMT.
On the other side of the Atlantic, euro zone rates have
remained stubbornly high but financial markets interpreted
remarks from a European Central Bank policymaker last week as a
signal interest rates may come down in order to support the
region's slowing economic growth.
Euro zone interest rate futures now expect around 75 basis
points of ECB easing this year from 4 percent currently. Futures
at the start of January pointed to the ECB on hold all year.
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