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Monday December 18, 2006 - 22:10:30 GMT
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FOREX-Dollar mixed ahead of BOJ meeting

FOREX-Dollar mixed ahead of BOJ meeting
Mon Dec 18, 2006 4:40pm ET28

(Adds comments, updates prices)

By Steven C. Johnson

NEW YORK, Dec 18 (Reuters) - The dollar slipped against the euro and was steady against the yen on Monday, with dealers squaring their books amid decreasing volume ahead of a Bank of Japan policy meeting.

By late afternoon, the euro edged up 0.1 percent from late Friday to $1.3100, above a session low of $1.3053, but well off a 20-month high of around $1.3365 touched on Dec. 8. Against the yen, the dollar was relatively unchanged at 118.07 yen .

George Davis, senior currency strategist at RBC Capital Markets in Toronto, said the dollar was recovering from "extremely oversold conditions," adding that investors were in the process of closing their books on 2006.

"Liquidity had already diminished and it's not going to get any better as the week goes on. A lot of people are flattening out their books," he said.

Alex Beuzelin, senior market analyst at Ruesch International in Washington, noted: "We're settling into year-end type markets and price action will be driven more by technical factors and profit-taking than by fundamentals."

Davis also said a move below $1.3030 would signal a run at $1.3000, and perhaps the key $1.2970 level, which should provide "a good entry point for long euro positions."

Despite the slow drying up of liquidity, there are a few events this week that could generate some volatility, including a policy meeting of the Bank of Japan on Tuesday and a handful of U.S. economic data.

The U.S. Treasury will also release its semi-annual report on foreign exchange on Tuesday, days after Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson returned from China with no major breakthroughs on the value of the yuan.

"Based on the U.S. Treasury's preference to focus on 'currency misalignment' rather than 'currency manipulation,' we are not expecting any countries to be named as manipulators in the report," Morgan Stanley analysts said in a note.

Regarding Japan, few are expecting officials to lift Japanese interest rates from their current 0.25 percent. However, some fear hawkish remarks from BOJ Governor Toshihiko Fukui could boost the yen and put pressure on yen-funded carry trades, which involve borrowing yen cheaply and then buying higher-yielding currencies.

But Derek Halpenny, currency analyst at Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi-UFJ in London, said "any yen buying on a hawkish statement is likely to be temporary."

The dollar earlier posted modest losses after a government report said the U.S. current account gap widened in the third quarter to 6.8 percent of U.S. gross domestic product.

"It's marginally dollar negative in the sense that once again the dollar's cyclical sources of support are waning," Beuzelin said.

However, in the last few weeks solid reports on U.S. retail sales and the labor market have caused a pullback in expectations for a Federal Reserve cut in interest rates in the first quarter of 2007. That has helped to whet investor appetite for risk and given the dollar a slight lift going into the end of the year.

Elsewhere, the euro hit a fresh 6-1/2-year high against the Swiss franc, shooting above 1.6010 francs , a move traders attributed mostly to technical factors.

Sterling fell 0.2 percent to $1.9480 as investors continued to take profits on the pound's recent appreciation. The British currency rose to a 14-year high above $1.98 earlier earlier this month.

© Reuters 2006. All Rights Reserved.


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