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Friday May 15, 2009 - 20:29:57 GMT
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FOREX NEWS-US dollar, yen rise as risk aversion hurt stock markets

Fri May 15, 2009 3:55pm EDT

* Yen hits 2-month high vs dollar, 2-week high vs euro

* Weak European data stokes risk aversion, dents euro

* US data unable to ease fears, global stocks fall

* Swiss franc falls vs euro, talks of BIS buying

(Adds details, updates)

By Vivianne Rodrigues

NEW YORK, May 15 (Reuters) - The U.S. dollar and yen rose on Friday as worries persisted about global economic prospects after more evidence of recession in Europe and the U.S. triggered stock losses across the globe, prompting investors to seek shelter in the yen in particular.

A batch of better-than-expected U.S. economic reports failed to ease worries but contrasted with even weaker data from the euro zone and East Europe.

Investors were mainly discouraged by reports showing the euro-zone economy contracted at its fastest pace on record as they remained inclined to buy the U.S. dollar and Japanese yen. Both currencies typically rise when investors turn risk averse and slip when risk appetite improves.

"We had some negative news coming from Europe earlier today and overall, investors remained focused on trades involving the dollar and the yen," said Michael Woolfolk, a senior currency analyst at The Bank of New York Mellon. "(The) market remains jittery."

In late afternoon New York trading, the euro fell 1.1 percent to $1.3485 <EUR=>, after touching session lows at 1.3463, according to Reuters data. The euro also was down 2.0 percent against the yen at 128.17 yen <EURJPY=> after tumbling to two-week lows at 127.97 earlier, Reuters data show.

The single euro-zone currency was on track for its biggest weekly loss against the yen since late January.

"Overall risk appetite is still down because of the bad numbers from Europe," said Matthew Strauss, senior currency strategist at RBC Capital, in Toronto.

The euro's losses were triggered earlier by data showing the euro-zone economy shrank 2.5 percent in the first quarter from the previous quarter and 4.6 percent from the same period a year ago, driven by a plunge in German output. [ID:nLF21360].

"While we all know this (report) is backward-looking data, it's first and foremost a pretty lousy health check on European activity," said Andrew Wilkinson, senior market analyst at Interactive Brokers, in Greenwich, Connecticut. "Today's data pulls the rug from the recent euro recovery story."

The U.S. dollar dropped 0.8 percent to 95.10 yen <JPY=>, having hit a two-month low of 94.74 yen according to Reuters data. A close below the 100-day moving average of 95.14 yen will be the first in three months, according to Reuters charts.


The dollar was also on pace for its steepest weekly decline against the yen since late in October. Analysts said the yen's outperformance suggests Japanese investors are looking toward their domestic markets and that is translating into yen strength.

More positive data for the U.S. economy such as a modest drop in industrial production for April and a rise in consumer confidence were not enough to shake the market's bearish stance on risky trades in higher-yielding currencies such as Australian and New Zealand dollars.

"The data out of the U.S. were positive for growth, but they're second-tier reports and their impact is not likely to be sustained," said Strauss at RBC.

The Australian dollar fell 1.4 percent to US$0.7490 <AUD=>, while the New Zealand dollar plunged 2 percent to US$0.5844 <NZD=>.

Elsewhere, the Swiss franc fell to one-week lows versus the euro, with traders saying the Bank of International Settlements was buying the euro zone single currency. [ID:nWEA2987]

The euro rose to session highs at 1.5147 <EURCHF=> after trading near the session low at 1.5009 for most of the New York session. It was last up 0.5 percent at 1.5134 francs.

Woolfolk at the Bank of New York said there "were several central banks" active in the markets on Friday. He added that the bulk of the price action was focused on the euro and yen pairs.

(Additional reporting by Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss)

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