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Thursday July 13, 2006 - 10:27:03 GMT
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FOREX-Dlr falls on geopolitical tensions, yen eyes BOJ hike

LONDON, July 13 (Reuters) - The dollar fell against the Swiss franc and euro on Thursday as record high oil prices and geopolitical tensions prompted safe-haven currency flows, while the yen rose on expectations of a Japanese interest rate rise this week.

Traders and analysts said the collapse of talks between South Korea and North Korea over a missile crisis, tensions between world powers and Iran over Iran's nuclear programme and Israel's bombing of Lebanon's Beirut airport supported the Swiss franc.

"This morning the market is a pretty nervous place and there seem to be several flash-points and some stops seem to have been triggered in dollar/Swiss," said Lee Ferridge, senior proprietary trader at Rabobank.

Oil prices also figured in the dollar's losses as IPE Brent crude oil futures and NYMEX crude oil hit record highs above $75 a barrel.

The yen, meanwhile, rose against the dollar and the euro as the Bank of Japan began a two-day policy meeting which is widely expected to result in a rise in Japanese interest rates for the first time in six years.

"The dollar is under a little bit of pressure with interest rates expectations elsewhere," said Tony Norfield, head of foreign exchange research at ABN Amro.

"The yen has bounced back today, the Australian dollar is up on rate hike speculation for August and there are rumours of a Chinese rate hike."

By 0959 GMT the dollar was down 0.3 percent on the day against the Swiss franc near the day's low of 1.2282 francs . The euro had fallen as far as $1.2693 before steadying to $1.2702 .

The dollar fell a quarter percent against the yen to 115.17 yen , and the euro was also down a quarter percent against the yen at 146.36 yen .

The Australian dollar hit six-week highs against the U.S. dollar as strong Australian employment data fuelled talk of a rate rise in August.

Markets are also speculating about a rate rise in China, normally a positive for neighbouring currencies such as the yen, nearly a year after China revalued its currency.

U.S. weekly jobless claims at 1230 GMT are forecast to show a rise to 318,000. European Central Bank Governing Council member Nout Wellink and Minneapolis Fed President Gary Stern speak at separate events later.


The yen rose in European trade after Hidenao Nakagawa, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party's policy chief, said in an interview with Reuters that markets have factored in an end to Japan's zero interes rates.

He also said the Bank of Japan needed to be responsible to ensure deflation did not recur, but policy decisions were up to the central bank.

Financial markets widely expect the BOJ to raise the overnight call rate to 0.25 percent on Friday after a two-day policy-setting meeting, ending an era of zero rates aimed at fighting off deflation.

Analysts said Nakagawa's comments reinforced expectations of a rate rise.

"What these comments seem to indicate is that there's an acceptance by the government that the Bank of Japan will hike by 25 basis points," said Kamal Sharma, currency strategist at Bank of America.

The yen rose earlier on Thursday on a report in financial daily Nihon Keizai Shimbun that a majority of the Bank of Japan's nine-member policy board believes that economic growth and rising consumer prices warrant raising rates.

Traders seized on comments from Japanese Finance Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki on Wednesday as an excuse to trim long yen positions built on expectations the BOJ would bump up overnight rates to 0.25 percent.

Tanigaki repeated his long-standing opposition to a rate increase, saying there was no need for the BOJ to end its zero rate policy because there were no concerns at present about inflation.

A Reuters poll taken earlier in the week showed that 21 out of 22 traders and analysts in Japan's interest rate market expect the BOJ to raise the overnight rate to 0.25 percent at the end of its policy meeting.

At 5.25 percent, U.S. interest rates will continue to dwarf Japanese rates for a while, while the European Central Bank is widely expected to boost its key rate to 3 percent next month.

For clues on the Japan rate outlook, investors will scour the comments from BOJ Governor Toshihiko Fukui at his news conference after the policy meeting. Fukui is expected to stress that the central bank will lift rates only gradually.

© Reuters 2006. All Rights Reserved


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