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Tuesday June 20, 2006 - 10:27:41 GMT
Reuters - www.reuters.com

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FOREX-Yen gains on possibility of a BOJ July rate hike

FOREX-Yen gains on possibility of a BOJ July rate hike
Tue Jun 20, 2006 6:00am ET172

(Updates price, adds quotes, changes byline)

By Toni Vorobyova

LONDON, June 20 (Reuters) - The yen bounced up from the previous day's record low against the euro and eight-week troughs versus the dollar on Tuesday after the Bank of Japan gave its strongest signal yet it would hike interest rates soon.

BOJ Governor Toshihiko Fukui said policy decisions should be taken early if warranted by economic conditions, reinforcing market expectations for a rate rise from zero as early as July.

He added that political pressure would not affect policy decisions, and his investment in a fund set up by Yoshiaki Murakami, who is under arrest for suspected insider trading, would be unrelated to policy decisions.

The yen had been under pressure from uncertainty over Japan's interest rate outlook as well as geopolitical concerns raised by a threat of a missile launch by North Korea.

"The comments from BOJ governor Fukui were much more hawkish than the market had expected, leaving the door open for a hike in July," said Michael Klawitter, currency strategist at DrKW in Frankfurt.

"In an environment where previously the market was revising its rate hike expectations lower in the case of Japan, this obviously had quite a significant impact," he added.

However the yen trimmed some of its gains after Fukui later clarified that acting "early" on policy does not mean acting earlier than market expectations.

By 0947 GMT, the dollar was down around 0.3 percent at 115.16 yen , about half a yen off the session low and down from eight-week highs of 115.77 hit on Monday.

The euro was also around half a percent weaker on the day at 144.53 yen , having recovered from a session low of 144.24 but still some way off Monday's record high at 145.86.

Against the dollar, the single currency was largely steady on the day at $1.2562 .

MORE HIKES IN SWEDEN, U.S.

Elsewhere, the Swedish crown rose to a one-week high against the euro and also firmed versus the dollar after the Riksbank raised rates by a quarter percentage point to 2.25 percent, as expected, and signalled more tightening.

The Swedish currency also hit a three-month high against the Norwegian crown at 1.1716 .

"It was quite a hawkish statement from the Riksbank, they said the market is pricing less than they should in terms of rate hikes," said Johan Javeus, FX strategist at SEB in Stockholm.

Traders are also focusing on whether the Federal Reserve will increase U.S. rates beyond a widely expected hike to 5.25 percent at the end of next week.

Worries have mounted that the Fed's long stretch of credit tightening may cause a sharp slowdown in the U.S. economy, especially with the once red-hot housing market already showing signs of cooling.

"We are on board with the idea the Fed is still tightening. The market underestimated where the peak in U.S. rates is but now we are on our way to price in 5.5 percent," said David Simmonds, head of foreign exchange strategy at Royal Bank of Scotland.

"The question for the dollar is that the Fed goes on with a degree of restrictedness and whether that will have an adverse impact on the economy."

Data at 1230 GMT is expected to show U.S. housing starts in May rose at a 1.850 million annualised rate, nearly unchanged from 1.849 million in April.

A report on Monday showed U.S. home-builder sentiment sank to its lowest in more than 11 years in June.


© Reuters 2006. All Rights Reserve

 

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