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Thursday January 7, 2010 - 11:29:24 GMT
Reuters - www.reuters.com

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FOREX NEWS-Japan finance minister comments knock yen

6:24am EST

* Yen suffers broadly after Kan comments on weaker currency

* Aussie rallies after strong Australian sales data

* Market awaits U.S. jobless figures on Friday

(Adds comment, updates prices)

By Naomi Tajitsu

LONDON, Jan 7 (Reuters) - The yen fell against the dollar and other currencies on Thursday after Japan's new finance minister said he wanted it to weaken more, stirring talk the government may be more inclined to stem any sharp yen rise.

The Australian dollar rallied broadly, hitting a one-month high versus the dollar and climbing to its strongest against the yen since September 2008 after strong retail sales data bolstered the case for another interest rate rise next month.

Speaking after his appointment as finance minister, Naoto Kan said on Thursday that many Japanese firms were in favour of dollar/yen around 95 yen, higher than the pair traded in the latter part of 2009. [ID:nTOE60607E]

He added he would work with the Bank of Japan to bring the yen to an appropriate level, triggering broad selling in the Japanese currency and pushing dollar/yen to the day's high.

"The comments were very aggressive and the yen sell-off is appropriate ... Kan's view of where dollar/yen should be makes sense," said Paul Mackel, director of currency strategy at HSBC in London.

"The new comments put further fuel in the fire to push the yen lower and the trend in yen weakness is going to continue."

The dollar's rally against the yen helped boost the U.S. currency across the board, but gains were capped as traders braced for U.S. payrolls data due on Friday, which was seen providing stronger direction for currencies in the new year.

By 1043 GMT, the dollar traded 0.6 percent higher on the day at 92.90 yen, near the day's high around 92.95 yen.

The yen tumbled broadly, pushing the euro <EURJPY=R> up around 0.3 percent to the day's high of 133.57 yen.

The Australian dollar <AUD=D4> rallied as high as $0.9268, its strongest since early December, on the back of data showing Australian retail sales in November grew a surprisingly strong 1.4 percent. [ID:nSGE60600S].

Those figures pushed the Australian currency to a two-year high of 0.6415 euros <AUDEUR=R> and extended its gains against sterling <GBPAUD=> to $1.7312, its highest since 1985.

The euro <EUR=> slipped 0.4 percent to the day's low of $1.4341 according to Reuters data, shrugging off a jump in euro zone economic sentiment in December [ID:nLDE6060K1].

Other figures showed a unexpected fall in monthly retail sales in the 16-country bloc, which markets took as a sign that euro zone interest rates will stay low [ID:nBRQ009657].

Strength in the dollar was reflected in its value against a basket of currencies, which rose 0.5 percent <.DXY>.

The euro <EURCHF=> hit its weakest against the Swiss franc in nearly 10 months around 1.4767 francs, before recovering to 1.4820 as traders became jittery about the possibility the Swiss central bank may step in to curb strength in the currency.

PAYROLLS AWAITED

Dollar gains were limited as traders awaited Friday's payrolls report for December, which could help shape the outlook for when the U.S. Federal Reserve raises interest rates.

The report is expected to show the economy shed 8,000 jobs in December, after a surprisingly small 11,000 drop in November, a Reuters poll showed. [ID:nN04238910]

The U.S. currency lost ground against the euro on Wednesday when minutes from the Federal Reserve's latest policy meeting suggested more economic stimulus measures were possible.

Some analysts said Fed officials may have a darker view of the economy than some recent economic data suggests.

"We believe (the market's reaction to the minutes) is more an indication of the misplaced pessimism of the FOMC at present," analysts at BTM UFJ wrote in a note.

They said U.S. Challenger employment data on Wednesday showed job cut announcements in the fourth quarter were the lowest since Q4 2000, suggesting the prospect for an improvement in the jobs market remains high.

(Editing by Nigel Stephenson)

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