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Monday October 9, 2006 - 22:55:14 GMT
Reuters - www.reuters.com

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FOREX-Yen hits 8-mo low vs dollar on N.Korea concerns

FOREX-Yen hits 8-mo low vs dollar on N.Korea concerns
Mon Oct 9, 2006 4:12pm ET163

(Updates prices, adds reference to Yellen remarks)

By Kevin Plumberg

NEW YORK, Oct 9 (Reuters) - The yen steadied against the dollar on Monday in holiday-thinned trade, consolidating losses sparked by last week's U.S. jobs data and a North Korean nuclear test that earlier pushed the Japanese currency to a fresh eight-month low.

The yen at one point slipped to 119.29 yen per dollar , its lowest level since February, after North Korea said it had successfully conducted a nuclear test.

By late afternoon, however, it had recouped some of those losses, with the dollar trading at 119.10 yen, up about 0.1 percent on the day.

Still the yen remained near its weakest level this year, and chart analysts said a dollar rise to 119.40 yen would pave the way for a break of the key psychological level of 120 yen.

The Japanese currency suffered its largest single-day decline against the dollar in 4-1/2 months on Friday following a sharp upward revision in U.S. payrolls growth and fresh lows hit overnight reflected the extent of deteriorating sentiment.

"Until now, the issue of yen weakness has been dominated by euro/yen, but the move on dollar/yen after payrolls and the North Korea test now places the focus on yen weakness in general," said Divyang Shah, global strategist with IDEAglobal in London.

"If 120 breaks, then we are likely to see an increase in the verbal rhetoric from Japanese policy-makers toward the yen," Shah added.

South Korea's military ordered army units to step up their state of alert after Pyongyang's overnight announcement, made as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arrived in Seoul.

Japan's proximity to North Korea and reliance on exports to Asia means the yen tends to be hurt by rising tensions between the West and the reclusive Stalinist country.

The dollar surged against the Korean won to 963.50 won , up 1.55 percent from Friday and on pace for its largest daily increase since December 2004.

WATCHING THE FED

Outside of the yen, trading volumes were light with the U.S. bond market observing the Columbus Day holiday on Monday. U.S. stock and foreign exchange markets remained open.

Sterling slipped nearly 0.2 percent to $1.8678 after lower-than-expected growth in British wholesale prices.

The euro was relatively unchanged on the day at $1.2603 , after hitting a 2-1/2-month low of $1.2571 on Friday after the U.S. payrolls data.

The U.S. payrolls data showed upward revisions to past U.S. jobs growth -- a massive 810,000 jobs in the year through March -- and left the labor market looking tighter than previously thought.

That cast doubt on a view that the Federal Reserve had definitely finished raising interest rates and could start cutting them from 5.25 percent as early as December.

Earlier on Monday, San Francisco Fed President Janet Yellen said U.S. rates are moderately restrictive at the moment, an appropriate state of affairs given the current uncertain outlook on inflation.

Minutes from the September Federal Open Market Committee meeting, due on Wednesday, will be examined to see if the central bank highlights either inflation risks or slowing growth and thus give clues on the Fed's next move.

A focus on inflation implies the Fed would be more likely to raise rates as its next move, while talk of slower growth may signal that rates will stay on hold or even decline in the months ahead.

CitiFX analysts said the euro's slump against the dollar is significant because it is on the verge of leaving behind a trading range held for the last few months.

"Theoretically a signal that the range trading has run it's course would be given by two consecutive trading days where the market doesn't trade on a $1.27 or $1.28 handle at any point during the session," they said in a note.

The next significant level for the euro would be $1.2456, below which would open the possibility of declining to around $1.1950, said the CitiFX analysts.

© Reuters 2006. All Rights Reserved

 

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