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Thursday August 10, 2006 - 10:15:59 GMT
Reuters - www.reuters.com

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FOREX-Swiss franc gains, sterling falls on UK terror plot

FOREX-Swiss franc gains, sterling falls on UK terror plot
Thu Aug 10, 2006 5:10am ET170

(changes dateline, byline, adds quotes, updates prices)

By Veronica Brown

LONDON, Aug 10 (Reuters) - Sterling fell while the Swiss franc rose against the dollar on Thursday, as flights to London were cancelled after British police said they had thwarted a plot to blow up aircraft in mid-flight.

Sterling slid in jittery trade from a 15-month high above $1.91 hit earlier this week as UK police arrested 21 people and airport operator BAA requested the temporary cancellation of all European flights to London's Heathrow airport.

British Airways said it was cancelling all its short-haul flights to and from Heathrow until 1400 GMT.

Analysts said the Swiss franc and yen were seeing safe-haven flows as they had strong external positions and tended to gain when capital was repatriated.

"This (terror plot) is not necessarily a unique UK issue, it just so happens that it is in the open in the UK. Similar threats may exist elsewhere," RBC Capital Markets senior currency strategist Adam Cole said.

"Thinking back to the (London) bombs of July last year -- that saw UK markets specifically being sold off, but all of them came back within a couple of days," he added.

By 0855 GMT, the dollar was down 0.2 percent against the Swiss franc at 1.2238.

Sterling was down 0.13 percent against the dollar at $1.9007, recovering slightly from a tumble of around 70 ticks.

The euro was steady at $1.2858 , while the dollar lost over a third of a percent to 114.79 yen . The single currency was also down around 0.4 percent against the yen, tracking back from a record high hit in Asian trade at 148.60 yen according to Reuters data .

GLOBAL IMBALANCES

The dollar earlier hit two-month lows against the euro and spiked lower versus the yen after China's central bank said it would gradually increase flexibility of the yuan exchange rate.

The yen is often traded as a proxy for the tightly controlled yuan.

The dollar was already under pressure on concerns about U.S. economic imbalances ahead of U.S. trade data at 1230 GMT.

"The dollar sold off a little bit, a similar response over the past month whenever speculation (rises) on yuan revaluation," said Paul Mackel, currency strategist at HSBC.

"Imbalances are still ticking in the background and the market is trying to jump onto that," he added

Economists in a Reuters poll said the U.S. trade deficit likely widened to $64.4 billion in June from $63.84 billion in May.

RBC's Cole said markets had been focusing more on interest rate differentials than on structural issues, so the reaction to the trade data might be short-term.

"The greater uncertainty at the moment is the U.S. interest rate policy," he said.

The Federal Reserve decided earlier this week to keep U.S. rates on hold at 5.25 percent after 17 straight hikes, but left the door open for further tightening if needed.

The European Central Bank and the Bank of England lifted their base rates to 3.0 percent and 4.75 percent respectively last week.

Analysts said the yen had been under pressure recently as it was the least attractive destination for foreign investors due to hyper-low overnight rates offered in Japan.

That will likely be reinforced if the Bank of Japan holds rates at 0.25 percent, as widely expected, at the end of a two-day policy meeting on Friday and reiterates that further increases will come only gradually.

© Reuters 2006. All Rights Reserved

 

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