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Tuesday February 10, 2009 - 11:17:54 GMT
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FOREX NEWS-Dollar gains broadly, eyes on U.S. bank plan

Tue Feb 10, 2009 5:34am EST

* Dollar up on uncertainty ahead of U.S. bank plan

* Dollar index up 0.5 pct .DXY

* Euro hurt on report of Russia debt deal

* Geithner set to unveil bank plan outline at 1600 GMT

(Releads, adds quote, updates prices)

By Tamawa Desai

LONDON, Feb 10 (Reuters) - The dollar gained broadly on Tuesday as investors sought the perceived safety of the U.S. currency before the U.S. government announces the outline of a widely anticipated plan to shore up its ailing banking sector.

The euro tumbled on conflicting reports that Russian banks were seeking government help to restructure its foreign corporate debt.

But investors were generally wary of taking large positions ahead of the U.S. plan, which will likely focus on helping banks offload their so-called "toxic assets" and boost their capital. U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is expected to unveil the outline of the plan at 1600 GMT.

The Obama administration is also waiting for Congress to work out an $800 billion-plus economic stimulus package, although a major hurdle was cleared in the Senate on Monday.

"It feels like a generalised bout of dollar strength in part still built by uncertainty over what happens with these U.S. packages, and that's providing something of a safe-haven bid to the dollar," said Daragh Maher, deputy head of global FX research at Calyon.

"In general, the pattern we've seen in currencies after announcements like these is euphoria that it's done and dusted and then within 24 hours you have the assessment of the package ... and that tends to play for a bit of dollar strength."

The dollar rose against a basket of major currencies. At 0954 GMT, the dollar index .DXY was up 0.5 percent at 85.356.

The U.S unit was also higher against the Australian and New Zealand dollars, up 2.1 percent <AUD=> and 1.2 percent <NZD=>, respectively.

The dollar was little changed against the yen, down 0.3 percent at 91.14 yen <JPY=>.

RUSSIA WOES

Earlier, the euro slipped more than one percent on the day against the dollar and yen after Japan's Nikkei business daily quoted Anatoly Aksakov, president of the Russian Association of Regional Banks, as saying the industry group had submitted a proposal to the Russian government to postpone loan repayments of up to $400 billion in corporate debt owned to foreign banks. [ID:nT350610]

But Russia was quick to play down the report.

"The government of the Russian Federation does not plan to consider the issue of restructuring the corporate debt of Russian banks and companies," Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin told Reuters. [ID:nLA97570] Aksakov told Reuters the Nikkei report was untrue. [ID:nLA444333]

"The Nikkei report soured sentiment toward the euro," said Lee Hardman, currency economist at Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, adding: "Broad concerns about Russia and emerging European countries will continue to weigh heavily on the euro because of European banks' exposure to those regions."

The euro was down 0.7 percent at $1.2917, after falling to $1.2811 <EUR=>, according to Reuters data. Against the yen, the euro was down 1.1 percent to 117.72 yen <EURJPY=R> after hitting a low of 116.72 yen.

The euro was also pressured after European Central Bank Governing Council member Axel Weber said on Tuesday that concerns about long-term effects of loose monetary policies should not stop central bankers from cutting interest rates aggressively in the current severe downturn.

The ECB last left key interest rates unchanged at 2 percent but is expected to cut rates again next month.

Data also showed weakness in the euro zone economy. Italian industrial output was down 2.3 percent in December from the previous month, or down 14.3 percent year-on-year. [ID:nRAB001148]

The main focus, however, will be the U.S. financial stabilisation and economic stimulus packages aimed at tackling the recession in the world's biggest economy.

Three sources told Reuters the bank rescue package included a public-private partnership that could buy up to $500 billion worth of distressed assets, with private investors able to buy bad assets through low-cost funding from the Fed or using Federal Deposit Insurance Corp guarantees. [ID:nWEN4160] (Additional reporting by Kirsten Donovan; editing by Stephen Nisbet)

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