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Monday April 27, 2009 - 08:39:13 GMT
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FOREX NEWS - Mexico peso falls, dlr, yen rise on flu concerns

Mon Apr 27, 2009 4:33am EDT

* Dlr, yen climb, risk aversion up on swine flu uncertainty

* Euro slides, traders take profits on last week's rally

* Mexican peso falls 3 pct vs dollar, hits 3-week low

(Adds comment, updates throughout; previous TOKYO)

By Naomi Tajitsu

LONDON, April 27 (Reuters) - The Mexican peso fell on Monday on concerns about swine flu, while uncertainty about the extent to which the virus may affect markets cranked up risk aversion, stinging higher-yielding currencies and boosting the dollar and the yen.

The euro also slumped across the board as traders locked in profits from a rally in the single European currency last week following strong-than-expected economic data from the euro zone region.

The Mexican peso fell 3 percent against the dollar as the threat of a flu pandemic rose after more than 100 people were confirmed to have died from the virus, which has spread across North America and as far as New Zealand. [ID:nLR65818]

"It's hard to know just how bad it is or who are the likely winners and losers from the situation and how it will be contained," said Martin McMahon, currency strategist at Credit Suisse in Zurich.

He added that the knee-jerk reaction in the currency market has been to dump high-yielding currencies including the Australian and New Zealand dollars in favour of the dollar and the yen, which are considered safe bets in times of uncertainty.

"It's very early days, no one knows the severity of the situation ... it's hard to see what impact it would have generally on currencies apart from risk appetite."

By 0757 GMT, the euro <EUR=> had fallen 1 percent to $1.3125, falling prey to profit taking after the pair rose 1.5 percent last week on the back of a stronger-than-expected reading of the Ifo institute's German business confidence survey.

The Mexican peso <MXN=> traded at a three-week low around 13.6990 per dollar, roughly 3 percent lower on the day. The pair ended trade on Friday at 13.284 pesos, according to the central bank's final reference.

Concerns that the flu may turn into a pandemic stung stock markets around the world, pushing European shares .FTEU3 down 1.3 percent in early trade.

Heightened risk aversion pushed the higher-yielding Australian <AUD=D4> and New Zealand <NZD=D4> dollars each down roughly 1.5 percent against the U.S. currency.

The New Zealand currency was also under selling pressure before its central bank is expected to cut its rates to a record low of 2.5 percent this week and signal that rates will not be raised for a while. [ID:nWEL494385]

Losses in those currencies helped to push the yen up broadly. The dollar <JPY=> was down 0.5 percent at 96.64 yen after hitting a one-month low around 96.55 yen in earlier trade. The euro <EURJPY=R> fell more than 1 percent to 127.20 yen.

Despite its losses against the yen, the dollar rose against other currencies, pushing its value against a basket of currencies .DXY up 0.6 percent to 85.245 and pulling back from a three-week low hit late last week.

Takahide Nagasaki, chief FX strategist at Daiwa Securities SMBC in Tokyo, said the market needed to see the extent of the outbreak and its overall impact before any judgments could be made on the broader market effect.

"What needs to be watched going forward is the kind of impact the outbreak will have on North American trade and the movement of people," Nagasaki said.

ECB AWAITED

In addition to the swine flu issue, analysts said that market participants were also focusing on the euro before the European Central Bank holds a policy meeting next month.

The central bank is widely seen cutting its key interest rate to 1 percent from 1.25 percent, and investors are watching to see whether it will outline possible quantitative easing measures to help boost the economy.

ECB Governing Council member Nout Wellink was quoted in the media as saying that the central bank should discuss lowering rates below 1 percent [nWEA8468]. Another member, Axel Weber, was quoted separately as saying that a cut to 1 percent was appropriate. [nWEA8461]

News from a meeting of world finance leaders in Washington at the weekend was overshadowed by the swine flu concerns.

The finance leaders agreed there was a "break in the clouds" of the economic storm but said more measures were needed to ensure an end to the global recession.

A statement from the International Monetary and Financial Committee of the IMF said more action was needed to restore the health of banks and revive lending. [ID:nN25478350] (Additional reporting by Tokyo Forex Team, editing by Toby Chopra)

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