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Tuesday December 5, 2006 - 11:33:49 GMT
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FOREX-Stronger yen hits 4-mth high vs dlr, Mizuno hawkish

FOREX-Stronger yen hits 4-mth high vs dlr, Mizuno hawkish
Tue Dec 5, 2006 6:13am ET147

(Changes byline, adds comments, updates prices)

By Veronica Brown

LONDON, Dec 5 (Reuters) - The yen hit a four-month high versus the dollar and rose against the euro on Tuesday, boosted by a break of key technical levels and hawkish signals on interest rates from a Bank of Japan policymaker.

BOJ Policy Board member Atsushi Mizuno said it would be wrong to think the central bank needed to wait until all economic indicators were strong to raise interest rates again.

Softer data out of Japan had quashed minority expectations of a BOJ rate rise this year, helping to send the yen to record lows against the euro on Monday and sparking a bout of profit-taking in the common European currency on Tuesday.

"For the moment the market doesn't see a rate hike before the first quarter of next year, but this may be the first sign that overall the BOJ maybe more hawkish in the future," Commerzbank currency strategist Antje Praefcke said.

The dollar was still holding within sight of Monday's 20-month low against the euro, hit after a run of soft U.S. data fuelled expectations that the Federal Reserve could cut interest rates in early 2007.

By 1049 GMT, the dollar fell 0.6 percent to a four-month low of 114.60 yen , having breached key support of 115 yen earlier. The euro also fell 0.6 percent to around 152.62, down from record highs above 154.10 yen hit the previous session .

The euro was steady on the day at $1.3320 , retreating from a 20-month high of $1.3370 hit on Monday.

Ian Stannard, senior foreign exchange strategist at BNP Paribas, said the yen's gains were also accentuated as the U.S. yield curve was starting to de-invert, making it cheaper for Japanese investors to hedge their dollar exposure.

"Given the very high level of U.S. assets held by Japanese investors, the incentive to hedge is going to increase which will be ... negative for dollar/yen," he said.


The U.S. Institute for Supply Management's non-manufacturing survey, due at 1500 GMT, is expected to show that the sector grew at a slower pace last month and could put the dollar back under broader pressure that helped sterling to 14-year highs last week .

In contrast, a comparable survey for the euro zone showed that service sector activity picked up to a four month high.

The euro zone November services PMI rose to 57.6 from 56.5 the previous month. The non-manufacturing ISM is seen falling to 56.0 from October's 57.1.

This follows a run of upbeat data from the 12-nation bloc, which has supported expectations that the European Central Bank will raise rates to 3.5 percent on Thursday and may hike again next year.

"The market's view of the European economy is quite well set at the moment. It would take some unusual numbers -- and a string of them -- to change that perception," Mellon Bank head of currency research Ian Gunner said.

Elsewhere, the Canadian dollar held steady at C$1.1413 per U.S. dollar , with the Bank of Canada seen holding rates at 4.25 percent at 1400 GMT.

"We look for the statement to affirm that the Bank is firmly on hold for now (though we anticipate tightening in 2007)," JP Morgan said in a note to clients.

© Reuters 2006. All Rights Reserved.


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