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Monday March 9, 2009 - 20:31:34 GMT
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FOREX NEWS-Dollar up as safe-haven bid continues on bank woes

Mon Mar 9, 2009 4:23pm EDT

* Dollar rises broadly as equities remain volatile

* Weak stock market sentiment pushes cable to 6-week low

* Yen falls as Japan posts current account deficit in Jan (Recasts, updates prices)

By Nick Olivari

NEW YORK, March 9 (Reuters) - The U.S. dollar climbed against most major currencies on Monday as global recession fears and banking sector concerns again sparked risk aversion and sent investors looking for the safe-haven greenback.

U.S. stocks bounced between positive and negative territory for much of the session in skittish trade but finally closed down, adding to the dollar's allure.

Currencies have tracked equity markets' performance over the last few weeks, with the dollar tending to benefit when stocks fall as investors seek shelter amid fears of a collapse of banking systems worldwide.

"The dollar seems to be the only safe haven left right now, with both the yen and Swiss franc under pressure," said Robert Blake, senior currency strategist at State Street in Boston.

"We're certainly in risk aversion mode and the trade right now is to buy dollars, which to a large extent reflects huge repatriation flows to the United States."

Concerns about the outlook for the banking sector intensified after Lloyds Banking Group (LLOY.L: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) said over the weekend that the UK government would take a stake of up to 77 percent in the bank after agreeing to underwrite 260 billion pounds of risky assets. [ID:nL9485756]. That pushed sterling to six-week lows against the dollar.

In late afternoon New York trading, the dollar was up 0.4 percent against the yen at 98.78 yen <JPY=> and up 0.9 percent against the Canadian dollar at C$1.2994 <CAD=>. The Australian dollar was down 1.4 percent against the dollar at $0.6314 <AUD=> and the New Zealand unit fell almost 2 percent to $0.4924 <NZD=>.

The euro fluctuated between gains and losses, with the last bid down 0.3 percent at $1.2600 <EUR=>.

Troubled U.S. insurer American International Group (AIG.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) was again in the spotlight and helped bolster demand for the dollar.

AIG had warned of turmoil around the globe if the U.S. government allowed it to fail, according to a Bloomberg report that cited an AIG presentation on Feb. 26 when AIG appealed to U.S. regulators for its latest rescue. The report underscored the depth of the U.S. financial crisis. [ID:nBNG413045].


The dollar's biggest gains came against sterling, which fell to $1.3743 <GBP=>, the lowest level since Jan. 26, with analysts noting a particularly strong link between the UK currency and moves in equity markets. Sterling last traded at $1.3780, down 2.1 percent.

"Cable continues to be vulnerable to the woes of the UK financial sector as (investors) fear -- despite massive government capital injections and guarantees -- many of the key banking institutions will not be able to survive the crisis," said Boris Schlossberg, director of FX research at GFT in New York.

"The rescue packages are beginning to be viewed as classic examples of throwing good money after bad," he added.

Global recession fears also gripped markets. The yen fell after Japan swung to its first current account deficit in 13 years [ID:nT250938] and investors continued to digest Friday's grim U.S. jobs data, which brought the unemployment rate to a 25-year high in February [ID:nN06382576].

A deepening downturn in Japan has taken the shine off the Japanese currency's attraction as a safe-haven currency in recent weeks, taking the dollar back within sight of the 100-yen mark.

The euro gained 0.1 percent to 124.46 <EURJPY=>.

With little in the way of key economic data due on Monday, analysts said market players would be wary of the possibility of any more negative news on either the corporate or the economic front that could intensify market risk aversion. (Reporting by Nick Olivari and Gertrude Chavez; Editing by Kenneth Barry)

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