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Tuesday October 3, 2006 - 11:14:18 GMT
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FOREX-Yen falls in choppy trade on N.Korea news

FOREX-Yen falls in choppy trade on N.Korea news
Tue Oct 3, 2006 6:52am ET167

(Updates with yen moves, adds fresh quotes, changes byline)

By Carolyn Cohn

LONDON, Oct 3 (Reuters) - The yen slipped on Tuesday when North Korea said it would conduct a nuclear test, after earlier strengthening on market speculation policymakers were concerned about the euro's lofty levels against the Japanese unit.

The euro dropped around half a yen early in European trade as traders reported mounting speculation over possible intervention - verbal or otherwise - from either Japanese or European monetary authorities to bring euro/yen down.

Fueling this speculation, Japanese news agency Jiji, without quoting official sources, reported market concerns that further euro appreciation against the yen could prompt euro-selling intervention from Japan's Ministry of Finance.

But North Korea's statement that it will conduct a nuclear test jolted the market and weighed heavily on the yen, the most liquid Asian currency.

"The market was short on the back of the (intervention) rumours, (and) North Korea has not helped," said a trader at an Asian bank in London, referring to euro/yen.

At 1035 GMT, the euro was up slightly on the day at 150.06 yen , rebounding sharply from the day's lows of 149.59 back up toward a one-month peak of 150.27.

The yen also slipped to a month low against sterling of 222.60 yen , and reversed earlier gains against the dollar to trade flat on the day around 117.73 yen .

The yen's trade-weighted value fell to its weakest level in 21 years in September, according to the Bank of Japan's yen index.

Market participants have been wary about central bank reaction to euro/yen strength over the past month, and some politicians commented on that strength in the run-up to and following the mid-September G7 meeting.

Japan's new Finance Minister Koji Omi said last week that recent moves in euro/yen were a bit volatile.

"There's obviously been rhetoric that indicates potentially a little bit of concern over the levels of euro/yen, but to suggest intervention is wrong," said Derek Halpenny, currency economist at BTM-UFJ.


The euro was steady against the dollar at $1.2743 , off earlier one-week highs of $1.2767. German markets were closed for a holiday.

The dollar was on the back foot against the euro after the Institute for Supply Management's manufacturing index, released on Monday, hit its lowest level since May 2005.

Eurodollar futures <0#ED:> are factoring in a U.S. rate cut, possibly as early as the first quarter of 2007.

The euro was also supported by Monday's firm euro zone manufacturing sector survey, ahead of an expected European Central Bank interest rate hike to 3.25 percent on Thursday.

But investors were nervous about taking extreme positions in the dollar ahead of U.S. non-farm payrolls on Friday which could shed more light on whether the world's biggest economy is slowing enough to warrant a rate cut.

"After the ISM, euro/dollar moved up to $1.2750 and we've been in a tight range since then. It was a soft report, not only in the headline but also in the prices paid component," said Niels Christensen, senior currency strategist at Societe Generale in Paris.

"But there are no signs whatsoever of recession...(so) I think we are quite far away from a rate cut."

The Reserve Bank of Australia is widely seen holding rates at 6 percent on Wednesday, with debate now centred on whether it will hike in November or not.

Concern about the impact of a U.S. slowdown on demand for Australia's commodity exports has hit the Australian dollar, sending it to two-month lows of US$0.7430 on Monday . It traded at US$0.7473 on Tuesday.

With U.S. rates at 5.25 percent, a hike by the ECB would narrow the yield advantage the dollar has over the euro.

The Bank of England also meets this week, though most expect it to hold rates at 4.75 percent for now and hike in November, despite strong British manufacturing data on Monday which prompted some talk of the possibility of a move on Thursday.

(Additional reporting by Veronica Brown)

© Reuters 2006. All Rights Reserved.


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