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Monday March 23, 2009 - 21:14:43 GMT
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FOREX NEWS-Dollar, yen slide as US bank plan blurs haven allure

Mon Mar 23, 2009 4:26pm EDT

* Geithner unveils plan to unfreeze toxic assets

* Trichet says ECB reluctant for rates to fall to zero

* U.S. stocks soar, helped by bank rescue scheme (Adds comment, updates prices)

By Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss

NEW YORK, March 23 (Reuters) - The dollar and yen fell on Monday as investors reduced safe-haven bids on both currencies after the U.S. government unveiled a plan to unlock toxic assets from banks' balance sheets in an effort to pull the economy out of recession.

Higher-yielding currencies such as the Australian and New Zealand dollars, meanwhile, gained sharply, along with soaring U.S. stocks, as Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner outlined details of the bank rescue plan. For full story, see [ID:nN23275422]

"This is more about risk appetite with U.S. stocks up after the Geithner announcement," said Brian Kim, currency strategist at UBS in Stamford, Connecticut. "So we're seeing the euro rally against the dollar on this, along with the aussie and the kiwi" dollars.

In late afternoon trading, the euro rose 0.5 percent against the dollar to $1.3648 <EUR=> after trading as low as $1.3487, according to Reuters data.

Earlier, the euro had risen as high as $1.3735 after European Central Bank chief Jean-Claude Trichet signaled in a newspaper interview published on Monday that the ECB remained wary of interest rates falling to zero. [ID:nLM557188]

That should enhance the attractiveness of euro zone instruments over those in the United States and Japan, where interest rates are already near zero.

The yen, on the other hand, came under heavy selling pressure, falling to a five-month low against the euro. The single euro zone currency jumped on electronic trading platform EBS to 132.56 yen <EURJPY=EBS>, the highest since October 2008. The euro last traded at 132.45 up 1.7 percent.

Against the yen, the dollar rose 1.2 percent to 97 yen <JPY=>.

The low-yielding dollar and yen are viewed as safe-haven currencies with minimal volatility. When stocks plunge and the risk barometer shoots up, investors repatriate funds, closing out losing trades that were financed by low rates in both the dollar and yen.

Sterling firmed, rising 0.8 percent against the dollar to $1.4574 <GBP=>, despite the Bank of England's recent move toward quantitative easing as the UK currency benefited from a jump in equities following the Geithner news.

Sterling also hit a 3-1/2-month-high at 141.85 yen <GBPJPY=R>, while the Australian dollar <AUDJPY=R> rose to 68.37 yen, its highest since November 2008.

While the Geithner announcement was a short-term negative for the safe-haven dollar, some analysts believe the bank bailout plan would be not be as detrimental for the greenback in the long term as many market watchers had initially surmised.

The Treasury said the government would invest $75 billion to $100 billion from its bailout fund to partner with private investors and buy troubled assets at the heart of the financial crisis. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp and the Federal Reserve will also be tapped to offer further financing. For details, see [ID:nSP429491] and [ID:nWEN6344]

"A very positive part of this plan as it concerns the dollar is that the amount of public capital used will be fairly limited particularly when compared to the size of (government debt purchases under) the FOMC statement last week," said Dan Cook, market analyst at IG Markets in Chiacgo.

"By using public capital only to the extent required to attract private capital, it is hoped that the U.S. taxpayer will not be fully liable for the amount of these assets," he added.

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