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Thursday September 11, 2008 - 21:07:27 GMT
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FOREX NEWS-US dollar rises to 1-year peak, yen surges broadly

Thu Sep 11, 2008 4:28pm EDT

* Dollar touches one-year high, euro hits year low

* Yen surges across the board

* U.S. investors liquidating assets in emerging markets (Adds details, updates prices, changes byline)

By Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss

NEW YORK, Sept 11 (Reuters) - The U.S. dollar climbed to fresh one-year peaks against the euro and a major currency basket on Thursday, as nervous investors sought refuge in the greenback's safety amid escalating global slowdown fears.

The low-yielding Japanese yen also benefited from a surge in risk aversion, pushing the euro and the Australian and New Zealand dollars to their lowest in at least two years.

Investors had used the yen in carry trades to purchase high-yielding currencies in times when global growth was accelerating and risk appetite was high.

Analysts said the uncertain global economic outlook was prompting U.S. investors to liquidate assets in emerging markets, where inflation was also becoming a problem.

"This is a continuation of the strong dollar trend that we have been seeing for the last couple of weeks and it seems a lot of people have been coming back into the U.S. market," said Win Thin, senior currency strategist at Brown Brothers Harriman in New York.

"This trend should intensify as more and more money managers get back to the U.S. The U.S. economic outlook is not that great, but I think markets accept the fact that it is poised to come out of this global slowdown first," he added.

The U.S. dollar index on the ICE Futures Exchange, which measures the greenback's value against a basket of six currencies, rose to 80.375 .DXY, the highest since September last year, according to Reuters data. By late afternoon trading, the index was up 0.2 percent at 80.175.

The euro tumbled to $1.3882 <EUR=>, its lowest since September 2007. It was last trading around $1.3945, down 0.3 percent, losing 5.3 percent so far on the month.

The euro's woes were also worsened by comments from Jean-Claude Juncker, chairman of euro zone finance ministers, saying the currency was still overvalued in real terms.

Separately European Central Bank Governing Council member Nout Wellink said a technical recession in the euro zone could not be ruled out, further souring the mood toward the euro.

YEN OUTPERFORMS

Aside from the dollar, the yen has been the best performing currency over the past month among developed currencies, with much of its gains coming on the crosses, notably against the high-yielders such as the Australian and New Zealand dollars. Even against a strong U.S. dollar, the yen has gained ground.

On Thursday, the dollar dropped 0.6 percent to 106.93 yen <JPY=>, weighed down by a combination of weaker global stocks and data showing the U.S. trade gap expanded to $62.2 billion, its widest since March 2007.

The dollar popped up briefly versus the yen in the late afternoon after the Wall Street Journal reported that troubled investment bank Lehman Brothers (LEH.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) was actively negotiating with potential buyers including Bank of America (BAC.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz).

The yen has been the only currency so far that the dollar has not been able to conquer, with the greenback down 1.5 percent on the month so far.

The euro <EURJPY=> fell to 147.51 yen, its lowest since late August 2006, according to Reuters data. It was last at 149.12 yen, down 0.9 percent.

The recent rise in risk aversion, decline in equity markets, and fall in bond yields have certainly played in the yen's favor.

Analysts at BNP Paribas said part of the yen's rise has also been due to the unwinding of positions in Asian currencies. Investors have also used the yen extensively as a funding currency for buying high-yielding Asian units.

But with many Asian currencies coming under pressure, the unwinding process is likely to continue in the near term.

"We expect the yen to remain supported and even extend gains on many of the crosses -- especially against the higher yielders and Asian currencies where central banks have been reluctant to take action against increasing inflation," said BNP Paribas in a research note.

The yen fell to more than two-year lows against both the Australian <AUDJPY=> and New Zealand dollars <NZDJPY=> to 84.10 yen and 68.56, respectively. (Additional reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by James Dalgleish)

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