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Friday April 10, 2009 - 20:57:59 GMT
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FOREX NEWS-Euro slides in holiday trade, ECB next move eyed

 

Fri Apr 10, 2009 1:51am EDT

* Euro hits lowest in almost a month vs dollar

* Dented by view ECB edging closer to unconventional easing

* Many major financial centres shut for Easter weekend

By Charlotte Cooper

TOKYO, April 10 (Reuters) - The euro slipped to its lowest in almost a month against the dollar on Friday, dented by holiday trade and views that the European Central Bank may be edging closer to unconventional easing, while the greenback lost early buoyancy against the yen.

With the United States and much of Asia and Europe on holiday, traders said the euro had been pressured by closing of long positions ahead of the long weekend.

ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet said on Thursday the ECB still had some leeway to cut its main interest rate from its record low of 1.25 percent.

He repeated it would lay out plans for possible unconventional monetary policy measures at its next meeting in May. He did not give details, but another ECB official said buying debt could ease credit availability. [ID:nL9724592]

The market has been watching for signs the ECB will take unconventional steps to improve credit after similar moves by the Federal Reserve and other major central banks to keep longer-term interest rates down and help lift their economies from recession.

"Speculation on the ECB's further rate cuts and the possibility of its adopting quantitative easing are weighing on the euro, prompting investors to take profits on its recent gains," said Akira Takeuchi, a manager at Chuo Mitsui Trust and Banking.

As investors have grown more confident in recent weeks and stock markets have rallied, the euro and higher yielding currencies such as the Australian dollar have risen too, only to retreat when investor confidence ebbs.

"The euro, or yen crosses, seem to be breaking from the rising pattern with stock gains. That may suggest a new trading theme is emerging," said Minoru Shioiri, chief manager of FX trading at Mitsubishi UFJ Securities.

"But it's hard to tell at this point, because the move could be just a temporary blip in a holiday-thinned market."

The euro fell 0.2 percent to $1.3138 <EUR=>, after dipping as low as $1.3090 -- a level not seen since mid-March when the Fed shocked markets by announcing it would start large-scale buying of long-term government debt and sent the dollar down sharply.

Against the yen, the euro slipped 0.2 percent to 131.85 <EURJPY=R> after hitting its highest in almost six months on Monday at 137.42.

STOCKS RALLY

The dollar gained 0.8 percent against the yen on Thursday, buoyed by a rally in U.S. stocks following positive earnings guidance from U.S. bank Wells Fargo (WFC.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz).

Wall Street indexes rose between 3 and 4 percent after Wells Fargo said it expected to report a record quarterly profit in an encouraging sign for the troubled banking sector, which has been at the heart of the global financial crisis. [.N]

The greenback initially extended those gains in early Asian trade on expected demand from Japanese companies at the Tokyo fixing at 0100 GMT, traders said.

But with the fixing out of the way, it drifted down to lose 0.1 percent on the day at 100.36 yen <JPY=>.

It hit its highest in six months at 101.45 yen early in the week but then faced a bout of profit-taking ahead of the long weekend and the onset of quarterly earnings.

The yen, which has slid in recent weeks as rising investor confidence has seen it sold in part to fund short-term yield plays, was steady against the Australian and New Zealand dollars.

Financial shares will be a market focus next week as several large U.S. banks report quarterly earnings such as Goldman Sachs (GS.N: Quote,Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM.N: Quote,Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) and Citigroup Inc (C.N: Quote, Profile,Research, Stock Buzz).

"The market has already priced in to some extent some positive news in earnings next week. So the market may react more to negative surprises," said Takeuchi at Chuo Mitsui Trust and Banking Co.

The U.S. Treasury has asked banks not to mention regulatory "stress tests", designed to determine their capital needs under adverse economic conditions, when they report their results, a source said on Friday. [ID:nN09314014]

The results are expected to be released at the end of April.

Fed policy-makers warned that the U.S. economy would skid more deeply into recession in the coming months but said it was time to start planning how to wind down spending to avert an inflationary surge. [ID:nN09302273]

The number of U.S. workers filing new claims for unemployment benefit fell last week but was still at levels indicating contraction in the labour market has yet to hit bottom. [ID:nN09264963]. (Additional reporting by Kaori Kaneko and Satomi Noguchi; Editing by Michael Watson)

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