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Tuesday May 23, 2006 - 10:52:14 GMT
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FOREX-Yen boosted by S&P's Japan upgrade

FOREX-Yen boosted by S&P's Japan upgrade
Tue May 23, 2006 6:40 AM ET

(Adds quotes, updates prices)

By Veronica Brown

LONDON, May 23 (Reuters) - The yen held firm against the dollar and euro on Tuesday, boosted by ratings agency Standard & Poor's revised rating outlook for Japan to positive from stable.

The S&P announcement had initially caused a bigger yen rally, which hit the market as the dollar struggled to extend gains from a two-week high against the yen on Monday.

"Given developments in Japan over the last 12-18 months and how evident it has become that we're on a more sustainable path of growth in Japan ... I certainly think the rating change is justified," Derek Halpenny, currency economist at BOTM-UFJ, said.

"There's still a lot of speculation going on -- there has been talk of U.S. repatriation on selling emerging market equities and other risky positions which will support the dollar from time to time, but ultimately that gives way to this continued strong appetite for selling the dollar," he added.

By 0954 GMT, the yen was up 0.10 percent on the day against the dollar at 111.35 yen , and a third of a percent higher versus the euro at 143.12 yen .

One-month yen volatility hit its highest levels in nearly two years last week, whilst euro volatility rose to an 11-month peak, with currencies increasingly reacting to moves in other markets such as commodities and equities.

The euro was a quarter percent weaker against the dollar at $1.2836. Key resistance for the single currency lies at $1.2900 , a breach of which could spark a move back up towards last week's one-year highs around $1.2971, Nicole Elliott, technical strategist at Mizuho Corporate Bank in London, said.


The yen was also supported by comments from Bank of Japan Governor Toshihiko Fukui, who was quoted as saying the BOJ will adjust interest rates gradually "so as not to be overly behind the curve".

Fukui's remarks are "one more (signal) that the Bank of Japan is about to hike its rates. We can expect the first move at the July or August BOJ meeting," said Carole Laulhere, currency strategist at Societe Generale in Paris.

On the data front, French consumer spending came in stronger than expected in April, but business confidence was a touch below forecasts in May.

Industrial new orders in the euro zone fell 2.4 percent in March from February, confounding economists' forecasts of a small increase.

And China revised up the first quarter's gross domestic product to 10.3 percent, compared with a year earlier, from its initial estimate of 10.2 percent.

The Belgian leading indicator for May, seen as a good barometer for the 12-nation bloc as a whole, is due at 1300 GMT.

ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet on Monday reinforced expectations of steady policy tightening in the euro zone by saying the central bank was very vigilant on inflation.

The OECD said in its macroeconomic report on Tuesday that the ECB should wait until October before ploughing ahead with higher euro zone rates. Markets and economists expect a hike in June.


In the United States, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is due to testify before the Senate Banking Committee later in the day, although the subject -- financial literacy -- is not directly related to the economic outlook.

Investors are looking for clues on whether the Fed will hike rates from the current 5 percent in June or whether it will decide to pause in its two-year-old monetary tightening cycle.

The OECD said that it saw Fed rates rising to 5.25 percent, then going on hold before dipping 25 basis points in the second quarter of next year.

The dollar rose 15 percent against the yen and the euro last year thanks to a succession of U.S. interest rate hikes.

But worries about a narrowing yield advantage along with a growing conviction that U.S. officials want a weaker dollar to help reduce the country's gaping deficits have conspired to drive the dollar to one-year lows against the euro and pound this year.

© Reuters 2006. All Rights Reserved.


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