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Friday February 20, 2009 - 11:45:35 GMT
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FOREX NEWS-Dollar, yen rise as stocks tumble

Fri Feb 20, 2009 6:35am EST

* Dollar, yen rise as European stocks tumble to 6-year lows

* Euro pressured on banking and E.Europe concerns

* EZ PMIs hit record lows; UK retail sales data help stg

(Adds quotes, updates prices)

By Jessica Mortimer

LONDON, Feb 20 (Reuters) - The dollar and the yen rose on Friday as growing global economic and banking sector woes drove investors into currencies seen as safe havens, while grim euro zone data added to negative sentiment on the euro.

The euro gave back much of the previous day's gains against the dollar as worries about damage to western European banks from struggling economies in eastern Europe sent European stocks tumbling around 3 percent .FTEU3 to a 6-year low.

A further negative for the euro were surveys showing levels of both manufacturing and services sector activity in the euro zone unexpectedly crashed to new lows in February [nOSL009667].

UK data showing an unexpected 0.7 percent monthly rise in retail sales in January [ID:nONS004074] helped to provide a some cheer for sterling, however, which pared losses against the dollar.

"The dollar is still the best safe haven bet over yield, and demand for U.S. Treasuries is outstanding," IDEAglobal senior strategist Maurice Pomery said.

"People were a bit surprised to see UK retail sales were so good, but euro zone PMIs were just awful," he said.

At 1104 GMT, the euro fell 0.3 percent against the dollar to $1.2619 <EUR=>, helping the dollar index .DXY to rise 0.3 percent to 87.750. The pound pared losses after the UK data, however, and was flat on the day at $1.4292.

Against the yen, the dollar fell 0.3 percent to 93.99 yen <JPY=>, while the euro lost 0.6 percent to 118.62 yen <EURJPY=>.

The yen gained as shares fell, but its rise against the dollar was capped by anxiety about a deterioration in its economy and political turmoil which have eroded the currency's safe haven status.

The Bank of Japan said on Friday that a deterioration in corporate profits had gathered pace and that economic conditions were deteriorating rapidly [ID:nTKG004294].

Attention later in the day will turn to the release of U.S. inflation data at 1330 GMT after figures on Thursday showed a record number of unemployment claims at nearly 5 million.


In eastern Europe, evidence has been mounting of governments having trouble finding sources of financing, with the World Bank warning that the EU's 10 newest member states are especially hard hit by the world economic crisis [ID:nLK114726].

"The focus on central and eastern Europe and worries that private funding there is drying up is depressing the euro," BNP Paribas chief currency strategist Hans Redeker said.

However, traders said a German magazine report saying the finance ministry is looking at possible rescue measures to help other euro zone countries facing financial difficulties [ID:nBAT002718] helped the euro to pare some of its losses.

Without citing sources, the report said Germany was looking at issuing a "bilateral bond", but the German finance ministry later dismissed the report [ID:nLK413348].

On Thursday, Chancellor Angela Merkel said Europe's largest economy stood ready to help eastern European countries, principally via the IMF, but declined to speculate about aiding fellow euro zone countries [ID:nLJ86562].

European Central Bank Governing Council member Erkki Liikanen was quoted as saying in an interview published in a Finnish daily on Friday that the central bank will not rule out any measures to stave off the current economic downturn. [ID:nLAG003232.

(Reporting by Jessica Mortimer; Editing by Victoria Main)

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