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Monday September 15, 2008 - 12:38:21 GMT
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FOREX NEWS-Yen rallies on financial fears, dlr rebounds

Mon Sep 15, 2008 8:32am EDT

* Lehman files for bankruptcy protection

* Risk aversion rises with financial sector fears

* Yen set for biggest daily gain in nearly 2 years

* Dollar down 2.1 percent at 105.66 yen

(Updates prices, add comments)

By Ian Chua

LONDON, Sept 15 (Reuters) - The yen appeared set on Monday for its biggest daily percentage gain versus the dollar in nearly two years as risk aversion mounted after Lehman Brothers (LEH.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) filed for bankruptcy protection.

But the dollar rebounded from early losses against other major currencies such as the euro and rose sharply versus higher yielding units as oil slid to seven-month lows and on fears the U.S. banking problems will spread to other parts of the world.

"There is a high likelihood that the distress in financial markets and wider evidence of slowing global growth are prompting investors, particularly U.S. investors, to repatriate those flows back into the United States and clearly that's been boosting demand for the dollar," said Lee Hardman, currency economist at Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi-UFJ.

"That seems to be the strongest influence in the market at the moment and outweighing the negative sentiment towards the U.S. financial sector, which in the past would help fuel dollar weakness."

Higher-yielding currencies such as the Australian dollar fell, European stocks fell more than 4 percent and European credit spreads jumped wider. U.S. stock index futures indicated a steep fall on Wall Street.

"In general, with equity markets today lower, it's the yen and the lower-yielding currencies which are strong," said Marcus Hettinger, global FX strategist at Credit Suisse.

The market was also digesting news Bank of America has agreed to buy Merrill Lynch and the Federal Reserve will accept stocks in exchange for cash loans for the first time ever.

Adding to worries about the extent of the global slowdown, China cut interest rates for the first time since February 2002 to prop up its slowing economy, which had been seen as a major driver of world growth to counter the downturn elsewhere. [ID:nPEK358595]

At 1204 GMT, the dollar was down 2.1 percent against the Japanese currency at 105.66 yen <JPY=> -- the biggest one-day fall since early 2007 -- while the euro <EURJPY=> dropped 2.7 percent to 149.16 yen.

Seen also as a safe haven, the Swiss franc rose against the dollar, which fell 0.5 percent to 1.1245 francs <CHF=>.

The euro <EUR=> slipped 0.7 percent to $1.4120, erasing early gains, while the Australian dollar <AUD=> fell 2.6 percent to $0.8018.

"The initial jump (in euro/dollar) was a reaction to expectations for a U.S. rate cut. But it hasn't really changed the macro scenario. Europe is just as exposed to the financial mess as much as anyone," said Geoffrey Yu, FX strategist at UBS.

The uncertainty was so high that major central banks around the world including the European Central Bank, Bank of England and Bank of Japan said they stood ready to help soothe markets.

There is also speculation that the Fed, which holds its regular policy meeting on Tuesday, may cut interest rates again. Rate sensitive Fed funds futures are pricing in an 82 percent chance of rates falling to 1.75 percent from 2.0 percent at the September meeting. FEDWATCH

Lehman Brothers Holdings filed for bankruptcy protection on Monday after trying to finance too many risky assets with too little capital, making it the largest and highest-profile casualty of the global credit crisis. [ID:nN15469897]

Underscoring the dire situation in the U.S. financial sector, 10 of the world's biggest banks have pledged to establish a $70 billion borrowing facility to bolster worldwide liquidity and reduce volatility in what they called an "extraordinary market environment." [ID:nN14815043].

Wall Street even arranged a rare emergency trading session on Sunday to allow dealers in the $455 trillion derivatives market to reduce their exposure to Lehman, though turnover was said to have been light.

There are no major U.S. economic data releases due later on Monday and all eyes will be on further developments in the U.S. financial system and Wall Street's reaction to Lehman's news. (Additional reporting by Veronica Brown; Editing by Ruth Pitchford)

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