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Tuesday January 2, 2007 - 10:56:32 GMT
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FOREX-Broadly firming euro hits record peak vs yen

FOREX-Broadly firming euro hits record peak vs yen

Tue Jan 2, 2007 5:01am

(Changes dateline, byline, adds quotes, updates prices)
By Veronica Brown

LONDON, Jan 2 (Reuters) - The euro rose to a record peak against the Japanese yen and gained solidly against the dollar on Tuesday as hunger for rising yields looked to be setting the tone for early 2007.

Growth in euro zone manufacturing sector slowed in December, data released earlier showed, but that failed to shake robust sentiment on the euro area currency, as investors started this year in the same vein as they ended 2006.
Liquidity was significantly thinned on Tuesday by a market holiday in Japan, with forex and Treasury trading also seen winding down early in the United States to commemorate the death of former President Gerald Ford.

"We're starting the year very much the way we left last year, with a high-yield/low-yield story. You've got ECB rate expectations fairly robust and question marks about what the Federal Reserve will do," Mellon Bank head of currency research Ian Gunner said.

The European Central Bank is widely expected to raise borrowing costs to 3.75 percent from the current 3.5, while Japanese rates are seen rising at a very gradual pace from 0.25 percent -- maintaining the euro's yield advantage.

By contrast, the next move on U.S. interest rates is likely to be a cut from 5.25 percent after a steady policy in recent months.

By 0941 GMT, the euro was up 0.6 percent on the day at $1.3278 , adding to gains of over 11 percent made last year.

The RBS/NTC Eurozone Purchasing Managers' Index, which measures activity in the manufacturing sector, slipped to 56.5 last month -- a nine-month low and below a consensus forecast for a rise to 56.8 -- from 56.6 in November. However it was stuck firmly in the growth area above 50.0 that divides growth from contraction.

The single currency hit a lifetime peak against the yen at 157.72, according to Reuters data , extending an almost 13 percent advance made in 2006.

The Yomiuri newspaper reported the Bank of Japan would consider raising rates at its Jan. 17-18 policy meeting, but added a hike might be delayed depending on "adjustments" between the BOJ and the government and ruling parties.

"Investors have become comfortable again with using the yen as a funding vehicle," said John Kyriakopoulos, a forex strategist at National Australia Bank, referring to the carry trade where investors borrow low-yielding currencies to fund purchases of higher yielders.

"That's been clearly seen in the Aussie and Kiwi crosses," he added.
The Australian dollar hit nine-year highs above 94.30 yen as the market priced in more risk of a further increase in Australian interest rates.
The dollar maintained an overall weaker bias, down a quarter percent at 118.75 yen .

Financial markets are still pricing in at least one rate cut for the United States in 2007, although surprising strength in some recent data has pushed out the timing of any move.

The minutes of the Federal Reserve's December policy meeting may help refine the outlook for rates. The minutes were due to be released on Tuesday but have been put back to Wednesday due to the national holiday.

The ISM reading on manufacturing is also due on Wednesday along with vehicle sales, while Friday has the December payrolls report.

© Reuters 2007. All Rights Reserved.


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