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Thursday September 7, 2006 - 22:57:41 GMT
Reuters - www.reuters.com

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FOREX-G7 focus boosts yen, dollar gains on rate talk

FOREX-G7 focus boosts yen, dollar gains on rate talk
Thu Sep 7, 2006 4:23pm ET165

(Recasts, updates prices)

By Steven C. Johnson

NEW YORK, Sept 7 (Reuters) - The yen rose broadly on Thursday, hitting a four-week high against the euro after a German finance official said Japanese currency weakness would be discussed at a Group of Seven meeting this month.

Though weaker against the yen, the dollar, meanwhile, gained on major European currencies, boosted when San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank President Janet Yellen said the central bank's bias should be toward further interest rate increases.

That pushed the dollar up against its European rivals, extending a move that began earlier when rising U.S. bond yields prompted traders to trim bets against the greenback.

Late afternoon, the euro was down 0.6 percent at $1.2728 . The dollar rose nearly 0.7 percent to 1.2428 Swiss francs .

Yellen's remarks "covered all the bases and reinforced the current situation: the Fed is comfortable with a pause but is prepared to act again if incoming data warrants it," said Alex Beuzelin, senior market analyst at Ruesch International in Washington.

Speaking in Boise, Idaho, Yellen said the Fed was "prudent" to hold interest rates steady at 5.25 percent last month after 17 straight increases. But she added that until inflation pressures ease, the central bank must remain biased toward further rate hikes.

Fed officials -- including Yellen -- have said that slower U.S. growth is likely to ease underlying inflation over time.

But markets were spooked this week when a sharp rise in second-quarter labor costs hinted that inflation was not yet whipped, a theme Yellen reiterated on Thursday.

She noted that core inflation readings, which remove volatile energy and food prices, could remain above the Fed's comfort zone of 1-2 percent for several years.

YEN RISES AS G7 MEETING LOOMS

Yellen's remarks failed to provide the dollar much traction against the yen, after German finance official Thomas Mirow said Group of Seven leaders would address yen weakness at next week's meeting in Singapore.

Late afternoon in New York, the greenback was down 0.2 percent at 116.42 , while the euro was off 0.8 percent at 148.21 , close to a four-month low at 147.84, according to EBS.

Analysts said Mirow's comments reflected euro zone unease about recent euro strength against the yen, as well as the market's overstretched bets against the Japanese currency.

"The market has been far too bearish on the yen," said Michael Jansen, currency strategist at National Australia Bank in New York.

Short-term investors covered bets against the yen for fear G7 officials would focus -- as they did in April -- on bridging a global gulf between economies with large trade surpluses and those with wide deficits.

Leaders in April urged countries with large surpluses to embrace more flexible exchange rates. In the following weeks, the dollar tumbled to around 109 yen from 116.50 yen. Continued...

By summer, though, it had relinquished those gains as low Japanese interest rates prompted investors to borrow yen to buy higher-yielding currencies.

The Bank of Japan is expected to keep rates steady at 0.25 percent when its two-day policy meeting ends on Friday.

The pound was down 0.5 percent at $1.8747 after sliding more than 1 percent in the past two days. Uncertainty over the timing of Prime Minister Tony Blair's departure from office weighed on the British currency.

(Additional reporting by Kevin Plumberg in New York)

© Reuters 2006. All Rights Reserved.

 

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