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Tuesday April 7, 2009 - 15:53:53 GMT
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FOREX NEWS-U.S. dollar, yen rise as investors ditch risky assets

Tue Apr 7, 2009 11:49am EDT

* Dollar, yen up; markets cautious pre-earnings

* Higher-yielding currencies down as risk appetite wanes

* Euro extends losses after euro zone Q4 GDP revised lower (Updates prices, adds quotes)

By Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss

NEW YORK, April 7 (Reuters) - The dollar gained on Tuesday as fears about the global banking sector ahead of the U.S. corporate earnings season prompted investors to abandon risky assets such as stocks and boosted the greenback's allure as a safe haven.

The yen rebounded broadly and sharply, with short-term market players unwinding trades in higher-yielding currencies such as the Australian and New Zealand dollars that had been financed with the Japanese currency because of its low interest rates.

"It's quite clear that risk aversion is driving the market, that's why we're seeing gains in the dollar and yen," said Matthew Strauss, senior currency strategist at RBC Capital Markets in Toronto.

"There is caution ahead of the earnings season. Although we had some optimism about the economy in recent sessions, this earnings season would be a reality check," he added.

Worries about the banking sector were front and center as the corporate earnings season prepared to kick off.

In midday New York trading, the euro fell 1.0 percent to $1.3270 <EUR=> after hitting a session low of $1.3228. Selling in the euro accelerated after data showed a record contraction in the euro zone economy.

Euro zone gross domestic product fell 1.6 percent in the fourth quarter, the deepest ever quarterly fall and more than the 1.5 percent decline reported previously. [ID:nL798677].

Against a basket of currencies, the dollar rose 0.6 percent to 85.211 .DXY.

The dollar tends to rise when jitters in financial markets mount, as investors still regard the dollar as a refuge in times of crises.

The euro slid 1.6 percent against the yen to 133.25 yen <EURJPY=>. The dollar was down 0.5 percent at 100.45 yen <JPY=> after dipping to 99.88 yen, but the greenback gained broadly elsewhere.


Sterling was little changed versus the greenback, trading at $1.4748 <GBP=>. The pound had a negative bias for most of the session given the fall in stocks and weak UK manufacturing data.

European shares were down after opening modestly higher on Tuesday, as financials weakened along with U.S. stocks, which slumped more than 1 percent.

Still, other market participants were more optimistic. BNP Paribas in a research note said skepticism after an equities rally is normal, especially when the first negative earnings shocks start to hit the market.

"However, the forward-looking nature of markets suggests investors will see through this earnings trough. We expect setbacks to be limited, allowing the recovery to resume over the coming year," BNP said. The bank recommended using pullbacks to build medium-term bullish trades on sterling and the Australian dollar.

Meanwhile, the Australian dollar rose 0.2 percent against its U.S. counterpart at US$0.7139 <AUD=> in choppy trading after the Reserve Bank of Australia cut interest rates by 25 basis points to a record low 3.0 percent. It said it saw scope for only modest easing further out. [ID:nSYD452265].

Also on Tuesday, the Bank of Japan announced it was leaving interest rates at 0.1 percent. The decision was widely expected, though the BOJ also unveiled further steps to ease credit strains, announcing it would start lending against a wider range of municipal debt to support regional banks [ID:nSP168810]. (Editing by Leslie Adler)

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