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Monday December 11, 2006 - 11:28:04 GMT
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FOREX-Yen hits record low vs euro, Dec BOJ hike in doubt

FOREX-Yen hits record low vs euro, Dec BOJ hike in doubt
Mon Dec 11, 2006 6:15am ET27

(Updates price, adds quotes, changes byline)

By Toni Vorobyova

LONDON, Dec 11 (Reuters) - The yen slid to record troughs versus the euro and 2-1/2 week lows against the dollar on Monday, as last week's soft Japanese data dampened expectations that the Bank of Japan could raise interest rates this month.

The dollar steadied against other major currencies, giving back some of last week's gains made after solid U.S. jobs data helped to ease concerns that the Federal Reserve may need to cut interest rates early next year.

In Japan, expectations for a Dec. 19 rate hike had been boosted by hawkish comments from BOJ policymakers last week. But such views took a knock from softer-than expected economic data.

"The market is taking a bit of profit (after yen's gains) on the view that the Bank of Japan could hike rates on Dec. 19 and that might be weighing on the yen at the moment," said Niels From, currency strategist at Dresdner Kleinwort in Frankfurt.

According to overnight index swaps, money market players cut the chance of a BOJ rate increase next week to about 50 percent from 70 percent after soft machinery orders data and a downward revision to third-quarter growth.

By 0840 GMT the euro was steady on the day at $1.3193 , maintaining Friday's one cent worth of losses.

The yen was down 0.4 percent at 116.88 per dollar having fallen to the low of 117.08.

It hit a record low for the third time this month, at 154.37 per euro according to Reuters data, before trimming losses to 154.23 .

Investors are eyeing the BOJ's quarterly tankan survey of business sentiment on Friday, crucial to determining whether the central bank would raise interest rates this month.

"If tankan disappoints it will be hard for them to go this year. In the run-up I will be still selling the yen. I see the euro/yen heading up in the next few days," said Martin McMahon, FX strategist at Credit Suisse in Zurich.


A buildup in short dollar positions early the previous week made the U.S. currency more open to gains in the wake of Friday's strong non-farm payrolls report.

U.S. companies added 132,000 workers in November, outpacing forecasts for a 110,000 gain and indicating that the troubles in the housing and auto sectors remain contained for now.

The data prompted investors to rethink expectations the Fed will cut rates up to three times next year to help stave off a deeper economic slowdown.

Fed officials gather for their last meeting of the year on Tuesday and are expected to keep the language in their post-meeting statement signalling that interest rates are more likely to be raised further from 5.25 percent than to be cut.


This week also sees a visit to Beijing by a U.S. delegation including Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke. Paulson repeated on Friday his backing for a strong dollar and called on China to step up the pace of yuan reform.

Chinese central bank governor Zhou Xiaochuan said China is prepared to respond positively and actively to the United States. But the yuan weakened as Beijing insisted the exchange rate was a matter of national sovereignty.

In the past, the yen has been traded as a proxy for the tightly control yuan, although some say the correlation between yen moves and expectation for yuan appreciation has faded.

Germany's deputy economy minister and senior G8 official Bernd Pfaffenbach told a newspaper that China's huge currency reserves are problematic.

© Reuters 2006. All Rights Reserved.


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