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Friday January 5, 2007 - 11:09:46 GMT
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FOREX-Yen rallies on BOJ outlook; focus on US payrolls

Fri Jan 5, 2007 5:58am ET161

(Updates prices, adds fresh quotes, changes byline)

By Toni Vorobyova

LONDON, Jan 5 (Reuters) - The yen hit two-week highs against the dollar and euro on Friday on talk that the Bank of Japan could raise interest rates as early as this month, while the dollar steadied against the euro before key U.S. employment data.

Expectations that Japanese rates could rise again soon were reinforced at the start of the week when the Yomiuri newspaper reported the BOJ may consider an increase from the current 0.25 percent at a two-day policy meeting starting on Jan. 17.

Holidays in Japan limited immediate response to the speculation, but jitters about the interest rate outlook encouraged the unwinding of carry trades on Friday, prompting sharp falls in the high-yielding Australian and New Zealand dollars against the yen.

"If you look at the currencies which have been suffering -- the Aussie, the kiwi, sterling, it looks to be a reverse carry trade story that's going on," said Tom Vosa, head of market economics for Europe at NAB. The yen's low-yielding status had made it a favourite in carry trades, with investors borrowing the Japanese currency to invest in higher yielding assets elsewhere.

By 1040 GMT, the dollar was down 0.7 percent on the day at 118.17 yen , more than one yen below 2-1/2 month highs set earlier this week.

The euro was buying 154.84 yen , down 0.6 percent on the day, and more than 2 percent below record highs set earlier this week.

The Australian dollar, also under pressure from falling commodity prices, skidded 0.6 percent to 92.44 yen as traders took profits on the Aussie's rise to another 9-1/2-year peak on Tuesday. The New Zealand dollar, the highest yielding major currency, was down 1 percent at 82 yen , retreating from a one-year peak touched this week.

Another potential positive factor for the yen was news of China raising banks' reserve requirements for the fourth time since mid-June in its latest move to soak up excess liquidity.

"The argument at the moment is that the yuan will set the pace at which every other currency in Asia will appreciate because they will want to keep their competitiveness vis-a-vis Beijing, and so moves (from China) tend to push up expectations that the yuan will be pushed higher," said Vosa.


Against the dollar the euro steadied around $1.3098 , off earlier two-week lows, with the pair keeping in a tight range before the U.S. non-farm payrolls report at 1330 GMT.

A private sector ADP employment survey released earlier this week tempered expectations for U.S. December non-farm payrolls, due at 1330 GMT. The median forecast in a Reuters poll is for the payrolls data to show a gain of 100,000 jobs in December, but derivatives traders are betting on a rise of only 82,800.

"The focus is on the non-farm payrolls. The market is expecting a weak report after the ADP numbers," said Niels From, currency strategist at Dresdner Kleinwort in Frankfurt.

However, analysts said that the strong employment component in the Institute for Supply Management's non-manufacturing survey, released on Thursday, left room for an upward surprise.

The payrolls data should offer insight on whether the Federal Reserve will cut rates from the current 5.25 percent in the coming months to help shore up a slowing economy.

Several U.S. policymakers, including Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, are also due to speak later.

In the euro zone, interest rates are expected to rise twice more this year, to 4 percent. Business morale in the euro zone hit a historic high in December, supporting the view that the economy is strong enough to withstand tighter monetary policy.

© Reuters 2007. All Rights Reserved.


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