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Tuesday April 28, 2009 - 10:31:59 GMT
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FOREX NEWS-Yen strengthens on US bank, flu concerns

Tue Apr 28, 2009 6:24am EDT

* Yen strengthens broadly; dlr gains, high risk FX fall

* Risk aversion intensifies after WSJ report on BoA, Citi

* Swine flu fears continue to weigh on sentiment

* Concerns grow about the results of US bank stress tests

(Updates prices, adds quotes)

By Jessica Mortimer

LONDON, April 28 (Reuters) - The yen strengthened broadly on Tuesday as concerns about the U.S. banking sector's capital needs dealt another blow to risk sentiment, with investors already fretting over the economic impact of the flu outbreak.

European shares tumbled over 2 percent .FTEU3, helping the Japanese yen -- which typically gains in times of heightened risk aversion -- rise to a seven-week high against the euro and a one-month high against the dollar.

The dollar also gained as investors sought currencies perceived to be safe, while currencies seen as higher risk such as the Australian and New Zealand dollars fell sharply.

The Wall Street Journal said regulators have told Citigroup (C.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) and Bank of America (BAC.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) they may need to raise more capital based on early results of government stress tests on banks [nBNG118035].

The report fuelled concerns about what else these tests will reveal when the full results are unveiled on May 4, and compounded investors' aversion to risk as the prospect lingered of a flu pandemic hampering a nascent global economic recovery.

"The flu story and the story on Citi and Bank of America have spooked the whole market," CMC Markets analyst James Hughes said. "We will have to wait until the results of the stress tests on May 4 and it does raise fears because Citi and Bank of America are not necessarily the worst hit," he added.

At 0945 GMT, the dollar slid 0.7 percent against the yen to 96.00 yen <JPY=>, close to an earlier one-month low of 95.63.

The euro lost 0.7 percent against the Japanese currency to 124.98 yen <EURJPY=R>, having earlier hit a seven-week low around 124.38 yen on EBS trading systems.

Against the dollar, the euro was steady at $1.3021 <EUR=>, while the dollar index rose 0.1 percent to 85.703 .DXY.

Among currencies perceived as higher risk, the Australian dollar fell 1.1 percent against its U.S. counterpart to $0.7019 <AUD=> and hit a one-month low against the yen around 66.87 yen <AUDJPY=R>. The New Zealand dollar fell 1.6 percent to $0.5558 <NZD=>.

FLU FEARS

Fears that an outbreak of swine flu in Mexico could develop into a pandemic and halt any fragile economic recovery, continued to weigh on risk sentiment.

The flu virus has killed up to 149 people in Mexico and spread to Europe and possibly Asia. The World Health Organization has lifted its pandemic alert to phase 4, indicating the risk of a deadly global outbreak. [ID:nN27476506]

The Mexican peso fell to near a one-month low against the dollar <MXN=> after tumbling the previous day to post its worst performance against the greenback in six months.

"Unsurprisingly, it is the Mexican peso that has been hardest hit, but the threat of a pandemic has prompted an across the board FX sell off, with market participants running for cover and diving back into the dollar and yen safe havens," Calyon currency strategist Stuart Bennett said in a note.

The peso <MXN=> was quoted around 14.06 per dollar, according to Reuters data, having hit a session low of 14.099, its weakest since the start of this month.

Later in the session, the latest S&P Case/Shiller U.S. home price index is released at 1300 GMT and U.S. consumer confidence data at 1400 GMT.

German preliminary inflation figures will also be eyed, with regional data so far suggesting prices ticked up in April [ID:nLS783792].

On Wednesday, investors will look to a U.S. Federal Reserve policy decision, but the focus continues to centre on what the European Central Bank will decide next week.

The ECB is expected to cut interest rates by a quarter point to 1.00 percent and will probably announce some form of additional unconventional measures to boost the economy, though uncertainty remains as to what they will decide [ECB/INT].

(Reporting by Jessica Mortimer; editing by David Stamp)

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