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Thursday May 6, 2010 - 10:26:47 GMT
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FOREX NEWS - EZ debt crisis pushes euro to 14-mth low vs dlr

6:21am EDT

* Euro struggles broadly, hits 14-mth low vs dollar

* Concerns escalate that Greek debt woes may spread

* Investors await ECB news conference at 1230 GMT

(Adds comment, details)

By Naomi Tajitsu

LONDON, May 6 (Reuters) - The euro tumbled to a 14-month low against the dollar on Thursday, reeling from escalating concerns that Greece's debt crisis may spread to other euro zone states.

The euro fell as low as $1.2737, according to electronic trading platform EBS, its weakest since March 2009, as investors awaited comments from the European Central Bank on how it plans to help prevent contagion from Greece.

European policymakers have warned the euro's survival depends on a life-support package for Greece announced last week. This has ratcheted up risk aversion and boosted safe-haven demand for the dollar, pushing it to a one-year high versus a currency basket on Thursday <.DXY>.

"The driver remains concerns about the European situation, coupled with poor risk sentiment," said Kasper Kirkegaard, currency strategist at Danske in Copenhagen.

By 0946 GMT, the euro traded 0.3 percent lower on the day at $1.2770.

The euro trimmed some losses after Spain managed to sell five-year government debt, albeit at a higher yield than at its last sale in March, which quelled some market concerns that Madrid's credit risks may be rising quickly. [ID:nMDT009006]

"The auction results suggested a feeling that the contagion, at least for Spain, may not be that strong," said Lutz Karpowitz, currency strategist at Commerzbank in Frankfurt.

"But who knows how long this relief will last?"

ECB AWAITED

The euro has stumbled some 4 percent versus the dollar this week, putting it on track for its worst weekly performance since October 2008.

It has broken key support at $1.2994, the 76.4 percent Fibonacci retracement of the euro's trough-to-peak move in 2008-2009. The next level is seen around $1.2550 with many in the market already eyeing its 2008 low around $1.2330.

The euro sank across the board, plumbing a one-year low against the yen of 118.85 yen <EURJPY=R> on EBS, while sliding to its lowest against sterling <EURGBP=D4> since August 2009.

It also hit a one-month low against the Swiss franc <EURCHF=R>, with traders citing bids pulled by the Swiss central bank as helping to accelerate the single currency's fall.

Risk aversion boosted the dollar, pushing it to a two-month high against the Australian dollar <AUD=D4>, but the U.S. currency fell against the yen, which also rose broadly due to its perceived safe-haven appeal.

The dollar <JPY=> slipped 0.2 percent to 93.70 yen.

Sterling <GBP=D4> hit a five-week low against the dollar as polls opened for UK parliamentary elections. The pound came under selling pressure as surveys continued to point to the possibility of no party emerging with an overall majority. [nUK/POLL]

Confidence in the euro zone has been plummeting as markets remain sceptical that Athens will be able to consolidate its budget, while Greek social unrest intensifies, resulting in three deaths on Wednesday. [ID:nSGE645070]

"The crisis is now being more fuelled not by the size of the aid package but by the scale of austerity being forced upon Greece in order to receive the aid," BTM UFJ said in a note.

Investors waited to see what reassurance the ECB will offer at its 1230 GMT news conference. It is widely expected to keep rates unchanged at 1 percent at its 1145 GMT policy announcement.

The focus will be on whether the central bank suggests it is considering tools such as purchasing government debt to stop the rout, which has raised the cost of insuring Greek, Spanish and Portuguese debt against default. [nLDE6450H7]

Kirkegaard at Danske said a lack of a strong response from the ECB may put the euro under additional selling pressure.

"With all the speculation of the options policymakers can take, we see a high possibility that they will be disappointed. Perhaps we won't see anything more than verbal support from the ECB, and that could add some pressure to the euro," he said.

(Editing by Nigel Stephenson, John Stonestreet)

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