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Thursday February 14, 2008 - 12:03:36 GMT
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FOREX NEWS-Improved risk appetite boosts euro to 1-week highs

Thu Feb 14, 2008 6:58am EST

(Updates prices, adds comments, changes byline)

By Toni Vorobyova

LONDON, Feb 14 (Reuters) - The euro rose to a one-week high against the dollar on Thursday, and the yen was generally weaker as risk appetite improved following upbeat Asian and U.S. economic data which helped to push up stocks.

Better-than-expected U.S. retail sales data on Wednesday followed by a solid Australian employment report and Japanese economic growth data had helped to soothe worries about the health of the global economy.

Japanese stocks surged 4.3 percent [.T], their biggest one-day percentage gain in six years, European equities also rose [.EU] and futures pointed to a higher start on Wall Street [.N].

"There was a bounce in stock markets yesterday in the U.S., and Asia performed particularly strongly today, so it's another risk appetite story and ... that's really helped the euro," said Geoffrey Yu, currency strategist at UBS in Zurich.

"We are seeing some gains in euro/yen, and that's a perfect indicator that there is some return of interest in the carry trade and that's definitely helping the high-yielders."

The Japanese currency usually benefits from a risk-averse mood as currency investors tend to exit risky carry trade bets funded by cheap borrowing in the yen, but falls when risk appetite improves.

At 1127 GMT, the euro was up 0.3 percent against the dollar at $1.4619 <EUR=> -- around one-week highs. The common currency was also 0.3 percent higher at 158.30 yen <EURJPY=>.

Data from the euro zone showed growth slowing slightly less than expected to a quarterly 0.4 percent in the final three months of last year.

"(This) is probably in line with ECB expectations and fits the view that the euro zone will fall only modestly short of its 0.5 percent quarter-on-quarter trend rate this year," Bank of America said in a research note. "The GDP report thus adds to the arguments against an early rate cut."

A week ago markets were pricing in as much as 3-1/2 euro zone rate cuts this year FEIZ8. This followed data showing service sector growth slowed to a near-standstill and comments from ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet in which he toned down his hawkish rhetoric to give as much attention to slowing growth as to upward price pressures.

However, ECB rhetoric since then has been measured, suggesting that while policymakers are not considering rate rises they are in no hurry to move towards easing either, and markets have now toned down their pricing to just three cuts.


Investors were also awaiting fresh comments from U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, who is due to testify on the state of the U.S. economy and financial markets before the Senate Banking Committee at 1500 GMT.

The Fed has slashed rates to 3.0 percent from 5.25 percent in the last five months in its attempt to stave off a deeper economic slump.

The dollar hit a one-month high of 108.43 yen <JPY=>.

Among the best major performers, the Aussie dollar <AUD=> climbed nearly 1 percent to $0.9040, boosted by a surprise fall in the jobless rate to a 33-year low of 4.1 percent in January.

The data bolstered views that the tight labour market in Australia was stoking inflation and cemented the case for more interest rates increases. [ID:nSYD220639]

In Japan, investors cheered data showing the world's second biggest economy grew at double the expected rate in the last quarter of 2007.

Analysts though still see the Bank of Japan keeping rates on hold in 2008, or even cutting them, due to the threat of a slowdown. [ID:nT318846]

(editing by David Stamp)

© Reuters 2007. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of Reuters content, including by caching, framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Reuters. Reuters and the Reuters sphere logo are registered trademarks and trademarks of the Reuters group of companies around the world.


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