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Thursday January 11, 2007 - 10:47:45 GMT
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FOREX-Yen breaks 120 per dlr as Japan rate rise talk fades

FOREX-Yen breaks 120 per dlr as Japan rate rise talk fades
Thu Jan 11, 2007 4:51am ET144

(Updates prices, adds fresh quotes, changes byline, dateline)

By Simon Falush

LONDON, Jan 11 (Reuters) - The yen fell half a percent to breach the psychologically important level of 120 against the dollar for the first time in 13 months on Thursday as expectations of a Japanese rate rise next week receded.

The Bank of Japan could raise interest rates to 0.5 percent at its Jan. 17-18 meeting but the market is starting to take the view that recent Japanese data made a rate rise less likely.

Japan's diffusion index of leading indicators fell on Thursday to a preliminary 20.0 in November from a revised 54.5 in October.

"The market is coming round to the idea that the BOJ may not raise rates on Jan. 18, and if they do, the conditions do not really warrant it and the rate rise is going to be the last for some time," said Derek Halpenny, currency economist at BTM-UFJ.

Japanese Vice Finance Minister Hideto Fujii said disorderly moves in the currency market were undesirable.

The yen was down 0.52 percent at 120.26 against the dollar at 0922 GMT while it was down 0.76 percent at 155.93 against the euro .

The dollar rose as high as 119.88 yen last year and is approaching its 2005 peak of 121.40 yen, the highest for the U.S. currency since March 2003.

Even if there is a Japanese rate rise, the implications for the yen will be limited, say traders.

"Even if the BOJ raises interest rates next week, it will take several more months until the next rate hike, so the yen will remain a weak currency due to existing yield differentials," said a dealer at a Japanese trust bank in Tokyo.

The euro climbed to $1.2967 after falling as low as $1.2931 in the previous session, its weakest since Nov. 23.


The market is also looking to the outlook for European rates as it waits for clues from European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet on whether interest rates could rise further in February.

The ECB is widely seen holding rates steady at 3.5 percent at 1245 GMT, but many are looking for another rate increase in the first quarter and possibly as soon as next month.

Market players will look to see if Trichet uses the word "vigilance" to describe the ECB's policy stance, his previous signal of a pending rate increase, at his post-meeting news conference starting at 1330 GMT.

"There is currently only around a 30 percent chance of a (February) hike priced into the market, and we would be surprised if Trichet doesn't leave open the possibility of a hike with some hawkish language," said analysts at RBS in a client note.

The U.S. currency jumped on Wednesday after data showed the country's trade deficit unexpectedly shrank to $58.2 billion in November, the smallest since July 2005.

As expectations recede for a Federal Reserve rate reduction soon that would erode the dollar's yield advantage, the U.S. currency has rebounded from its roughly 10 percent slide against the euro in 2006.

The Bank of England also wraps up a two-day policy meeting on Thursday and is seen leaving rates steady at 5.0 percent.

There was little immediate reaction to comments by United Arab Emirates central bank chief Sultan Nasser al-Suweidi that Gulf Arab central banks may agree in March to change their currency pegs to the dollar.

© Reuters 2007. All Rights Reserved.


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