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Thursday February 12, 2009 - 21:43:35 GMT
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FOREX NEWS-Dollar stays higher as economic woes boost appeal


Thu Feb 12, 2009 4:30pm EST

* Dollar gains as investors seek 'safer' assets

* Obama administration seeks mortgage subsidy program

(Recasts, adds quote, updates prices)

By Nick Olivari

NEW YORK, Feb 12 (Reuters) - The dollar climbed on Thursday, rising to a 10-day high against the euro, on safe-haven bids amid concerns about weakness in stock markets around the world and the effectiveness of U.S. government policies in combating recession.

The dollar also rose against the yen late in the New York session as stocks came off session lows on news the Obama administration is hammering out a program to subsidize mortgage payments for certain homeowners. For details, see [ID:nN12472591]. But the housing news failed to dent the overall theme of the day.

Data early in the session showing a surprise rebound in U.S. retail sales and lower jobless claims also did little to ease the anxiety, which prompted selling of the high-yielding currencies such as the Australian and New Zealand dollars.

"We're following equity markets," said John McCarthy, director of foreign exchange at ING Capital Markets in New York, referring to currency markets late in the New York session.

In late New York trading, the euro changed hands at $1.2853, down 0.3 percent after an earlier plunge to $1.2723 <EUR=>, its lowest since Feb. 2. The session peak was $1.2942.

The dollar rose 0.5 percent to 90.90 yen <JPY=>, with a session peak of 91.02 yen.

The dollar and yen tend to benefit when investors are nervous about the state of the global economy and are inclined to sell riskier assets, such as stocks and commodities funded by the two currencies.

But the volatile environment left investor sentiment focused on the latest piece of economic or government news, causing sharp fluctuations in price.


Overall, investors were still disenchanted with the U.S. government's efforts to stimulate the economy, its measures seen as falling short of the market's very high expectations.

"Many investors perceive the banking bailout package and the stimulus spending bill (as) poorly designed and too little," said Andrew Wilkinson, senior market analyst, at Interactive Brokers in Greenwich, Connecticut.

"This risk aversion theme is not entirely the path we had expected the dollar to take, yet the potential for global fallout means that the prospects for the dollar are more, rather than less, positive."

Market anxiety lingered even though U.S. congressional negotiators reached a deal on Wednesday on $789 billion in emergency spending and tax cuts aimed at pulling the economy out of a deepening recession. [ID:nN11379390]

The Dow Jones industrials .DJI closed just 0.1 percent lower but had traded as much as 2 percent down, as losses on Wall Street mirrored declines in bourses worldwide on concerns about the ability of Washington to rescue banks and spark an economic recovery.

The Bank of England's quarterly inflation report on Wednesday, when it said it is ready to take unconventional policy easing steps, continued to keep sterling under pressure. The pound was down 0.9 percent at $1.454 <GBP=>.

In other currencies, the Australian dollar fell 0.5 percent to US$0.6520 <AUD=>, while the New Zealand dollar was down 0.7 percent at US$0.5215 <NZD=>.

The Australian dollar was hurt by news the Australian Senate blocked passage of the Labor government's A$42 billion stimulus bill. This is only likely to delay passage not kill it entirely, but stimulus payments to households will slip from March toward May, perhaps adding to the case for another sizable rate cut in March.

"This disappointment offset a positive surprise from the January employment report which showed the economy added 1,200 jobs during the month," said Vassili Serebriakov, currency strategist for Wells Fargo Bank, in a research note. (Additional reporting by Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss; Editing by Kenneth Barry)

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