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Tuesday February 3, 2009 - 10:33:17 GMT
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FOREX NEWS-Dollar, yen supported as caution overrides BOJ

Tue Feb 3, 2009 5:20am EST

* Dollar, yen firm as econ jitters override BOJ share plan

* Euro down 0.2 pct at $1.2819 <EUR=>

* Euro zone PPI down 1.3 pct, German retail sales fall

* Aussie dlr higher after RBA slashes interest rates 100 bps

(Adds quotes, updates prices)

By Tamawa Desai

LONDON, Feb 3 (Reuters) - The dollar and yen firmed on Tuesday, paring early losses as caution over the global economy and banks overshadowed fresh stimulus moves, including a Bank of Japan plan to buy bank-owned shares and Australia's rate cut.

Currency markets continued to take their cue from equities, which turned lower in Europe by mid-morning trade, supporting the dollar and yen as those currencies are perceived to be safer places to park money in times of stress.

Data on Monday showed euro zone producer prices fell a bigger-than-expected 1.3 percent, while German retail sales unexpectedly fell for a third straight month in December.

Waning inflation and grim data will keep pressure on the European Central Bank to ease, although expectations are for rates to remain on hold at Thursday's policy-setting meeting.

"Pressure on consumers is going to grow, which means there's a risk that consumption is going to contract in the second half of the year," said Andreas Rees at Unicredit.

Retail sales fell by 0.2 percent on the month in December, down 0.3 percent year-on-year. [ID:nL3643120]

By 1002 GMT, the euro was down 0.2 percent against the dollar at $1.2819 <EUR=>. It was also down 0.2 percent against the yen at 114.80 yen <EURJPY=R>.

The top European share index was down 0.2 percent after rising some 0.5 percent in early trade .

On Tuesday, the BOJ said it would start buying up to $11 billion worth of shares held by Japanese banks, saying their biggest risk was exposure to share markets. [ID:nT114588]

It would buy the shares up until April 2010 and only pick up shares rated BBB- or above by ratings agencies.

But market players were sceptical that the BOJ's plan would be enough to spur a sustained rally in Tokyo shares and a recovery in risk appetite.

"The BoJ equity purchases from banks should help ease bank balance sheet constraints due to capital shortage concerns," said David Powell, currency strategist at Bank of America.

"However, the news has failed to provide Nikkei share prices with much of a boost." Tokyo's Nikkei share average closed down 0.6 percent after rallying some one percent earlier in the day. .N225

The dollar rose 0.1 percent from late U.S. trading on Monday to 89.60 yen <JPY=> after hitting around 90.00 yen after the BOJ's announcement.

Traders said the pair's moves were also limited as large strike options set at 90.00 yen were seen expiring this week and next, including expiries worth up to $1 billion today.

Meanwhile, the Australian dollar held most gains against the dollar and yen after the Reserve Bank of Australia cut its key cash rate by 100 basis points to a record low 3.25 percent as widely expected. [ID:nSYD103714] and a stimulus package totalling A$42 billion [ID:nSP247627]

The Australian dollar pared some gains but was up 0.7 percent at $0.6358 after climbing to $0.6389 <AUD=D4>. It had jumped 1.4 percent to 57.29 yen <AUDJPY=R> and was last at 56.92 yen.

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