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Monday April 3, 2006 - 13:37:03 GMT
Reuters - www.reuters.com

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FOREX-Yen down on talk of Japanese investment overseas

FOREX-Yen down on talk of Japanese investment overseas
Mon Apr 3, 2006 7:56 AM ET7

By Natsuko Waki

LONDON, April 3 (Reuters) - The yen hit a three-week low versus the dollar and an 8-week trough against the euro on Monday as expectations grew Japanese investors would buy higher-yielding overseas assets at the start of the new financial year.

The euro recovered some of its earlier losses against the dollar as news that the euro zone manufacturing sector expanded at its fastest pace in more than five years in March boosted expectations of gradual rate hikes by the European Central Bank.

In Japan, a closely-watched tankan survey showed business confidence among Japan's big manufacturers slipped unexpectedly in the three months to March, its first decline in four quarters, triggering the move lower in the yen.

"The dollar has got off to a good start for the quarter and the trigger was the yen," said Daragh Maher, currency strategist at Calyon.

"We had a soft tankan survey and that gave an excuse for (dollar buying) and fostered talk the Japanese are investing abroad at the new fiscal year. That gave self-fulfilling support for the dollar/yen."

By 1145 GMT the dollar was 0.6 percent stronger at 118.45 yen , having earlier hit a three-week high of 118.80.

The euro was around 0.2 percent firmer at 142.86 yen, off an earlier eight-week high of 143.07 .

Against the dollar, the single currency was down 0.5 percent at $1.2055 , off the session lows of $1.2031.

The euro zone manufacturing PMI rose to 56.1 in March from February's 54.5 -- its highest reading since September 2000 and beating the consensus forecast for a rise to 55.0.

"The PMIs are consistent with anecdotal evidence suggesting the euro zone recovery is gathering momentum and will reinforce the view that the next rate hike from the ECB will come sooner rather than later," said Audrey Childe-Freeman, economist at CIBC World Markets.

The ECB next meeting is on Thursday and it is expected to signal that it will raise rates from 2.50 percent in May.

Analysts said that the impact of the PMI data on the euro was limited, because a companion survey for the United States, due at 1400 GMT, is also expected to be strong.

The U.S. Institute for Supply Management's manufacturing index is forecast to rise to 57.9 in March from 56.7.

The data -- especially if it is followed up by a robust services survey on Wednesday and jobs numbers on Friday -- could fuel expectations that the U.S. Federal Reserve may raise rates more than once from the current 4.75 percent.

TANKAN

In Japan, the tankan survey's headline diffusion index (DI) for big manufacturers' sentiment was plus 20, just below a reading of plus 21 in December and also off the market's median forecast of plus 23, prompting selling of the yen.

But overall the survey pointed to expansion, with the large non-manufacturers' DI improving to its best level in 14 years.

Robust capital spending plans also suggested continued growth in the world's second-largest economy.

Japanese investors, frustrated by near-zero interest rates at home, have invested heavily in high-yielding assets such as those in Australia and New Zealand

... But the Bank of Japan is expected to raise interest rates later this year, with Japanese government bond futures tumbling to a 5-1/2 year low on Monday.

But at around 0.7 percent, yields on two-year Japanese government bonds remain more than four percentage points below those offered by their U.S. counterparts , meaning that foreign investments remain very attractive.

"We remain on the lookout for signs of shifting domestic investor preference for domestic assets as the new fiscal year begins and will watch BOJ operations to gauge how quickly quantitative easing is being drawn down," UBS said in a note to clients.

© Reuters 2006. All Rights Reserved.

 

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