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Friday November 21, 2008 - 09:59:45 GMT
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FOREX NEWS-Yen, dollar fall as equity mkts recover poise

Fri Nov 21, 2008 4:23am EST

(Recasts, updates prices, adds quote and comment, changes byline and dateline. Previous: TOKYO)

* Citi merger talk, equity rebound prompt FX turnaround

* "Risk" currencies like sterling, Aussie and NZ dlrs rise

* General economic, financial distress likely to limit move

* Dlr up at 95.20 yen <JPY=>, euro up to $1.2530 <EUR=>

By Jamie McGeever

LONDON, Nov 21 (Reuters) - The yen fell back sharply from earlier highs and the dollar weakened broadly on Friday as a rebound in global stocks from the previous day's rout curbed investors' demand for the Japanese and U.S. currencies.

Talk that beleaguered U.S. bank Citigroup (C.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) could explore a merger deal, Japanese officials warning that the recent equity market slide is destabilising and speculation China may cut interest rates helped lift risk appetite.

Tokyo's Nikkei share average erased earlier losses and climbed 2.7 percent .N225 on expectations of a strong Wall Street recovery after the S&P 500 index slumped on Thursday to its lowest point since 1997. [.T]

Traders were also wary of adding to bets on the yen after Japanese Finance Minister Shoichi Nakagawa said authorities must be ready to deal with big market swings. [ID:nTKG003105]

The improvement in equity market sentiment followed a day of extreme volatility which had driven investors to the relative safety of government debt and in currencies, the yen.

On Thursday Citi lost a quarter of its value, fears over the U.S. auto industry deepened, U.S. three-month T-bill yields fell to virtually zero, U.S. equity volatility closed at a record high and U.S. weekly jobless claims soared.

The Swiss National Bank stunned markets with a surprise interest rate cut of 100 basis points.

Fears over the global financial crisis and deepening recession in many economies were highlighted on Friday, however, by surprisingly weak euro zone purchasing managers data.

"The (FX) turnaround is clearly in risk aversion," said Colin Asher, currency economist at Nomura, pointing to stocks.

"Conditions also looked highly oversold ... and that may be the tone for the day," he said, although he didn't rule out another bout of yen strength if risk aversion bubbles over again: "a reversal of the reversal".

At 0910 GMT the dollar was up 1.3 percent on the day against the yen at 95.20 yen <JPY=>, recovering from a three-week low of 93.55 yen struck the previous day.

The euro rose 1.8 percent to 119.25, also bouncing back from a three-week low of 116.45 yen hit on Thursday.

The euro climbed 0.6 percent against the dollar to $1.2530.

The Australian and New Zealand dollars were both up more than 2 percent against the greenback at $0.6230 <AUD=> and $0.5317 <NZD=>, respectively, while sterling was up 0.8 percent at $1.4840 <GBP=>.

PMI PLUNGE

There was little reaction to the Bank of Japan's decision to keep rates on hold at 0.30 percent. [ID:nT14410] but the Swiss franc continued to fall in the wake of the SNB's rate cut on Thursday.

The economic fragility that prompted the SNB's aggressive move was also highlighted on Friday by a report that showed euro zone manufacturing and service sectors contracting much more quickly and deeply than expected in November.

The flash purchasing managers' indices tumbled to record lows and also showed that inflationary pressures in the 15-nation currency bloc were fading fast. [ID:nLAG003116].

The weaker-than-expected PMI survey "likely will feed the recession fears gripping markets and pose more downside for risk assets," JP Morgan currency strategists said in a note.

For the rest of the session Friday traders will look to equity markets, Citigroup -- whose share price fell below $5 -- and U.S. Congressional efforts to rescue the auto industry for direction.

Major European bourses were up more than 1 percent in early trade on Friday, and U.S. stock futures pointed to strong gains at the open.

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