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Tuesday January 16, 2007 - 21:38:33 GMT
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FOREX-Yen slips on Japan rate uncertainty; dollar firms

FOREX-Yen slips on Japan rate uncertainty; dollar firms
Tue Jan 16, 2007 4:28pm ET139

(Updates prices, adds comment, changes byline)

By Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss

NEW YORK, Jan 16 (Reuters) - The Japanese yen fell to a 13-month low against the dollar on Tuesday after media reports suggested the Bank of Japan may not raise interest rates at its policy meeting this week.

The dollar continued to move broadly higher, with softer crude prices seen helping a highly oil-reliant U.S. economy. U.S. crude futures fell to $50.53 per barrel on Tuesday, the lowest since May 26, 2005. It last traded at $51.33, down $1.66 on the day.

The market's focus, however, remained primarily on the yen, as the BoJ is set to hold a two-day policy meeting that ends on Thursday. Japanese news agency Kyodo reported that the central bank is unlikely to raise rates then, citing "sources familiar with the matter."

A report by the Nihon Keizai Shimbun (Nikkei) echoed the sentiment as did Japanese broadcaster TBS television, which said earlier BOJ officials are in the final stages of coordinating on holding off raising rates.

"Rumors of whether the BoJ would raise or not raise rates are causing short-term fluctuations in dollar/yen right now," said Kathy Lien, chief currency analyst at Forex Capital Markets in New York.

"Bottom line, even if Japan does raise rates, they will still only be 50 basis points -- one of the lowest yields in the developed world. And that keeps carry trades in play," she added.

Market players have borrowed the low-yielding yen and used the funds to purchase higher-yielding currencies in carry trades, helping push sterling to an eight-year high against the Japanese currency .

The dollar climbed as high as 120.77 yen , its highest since December 2005, according to Reuters data. It last traded at 120.69 yen, up 0.20 percent on the day.

The euro traded little changed at 155.87 yen .

Kyodo quoted sources as saying the central bank has judged it necessary to monitor prices and consumption for now before deciding whether to raise the key overnight call rate target from its current 0.25 percent.

TBS television, which cited no sources for its story, also said there is a growing view within the central bank that they should take more time monitoring economic conditions.

BOJ officials were not immediately available for comment.

Markets, on the other hand, remained upbeat on the dollar. Expectations for near term U.S. interest rate cuts have been scaled back sharply in the past few weeks following the release of stronger-than-expected economic data.

A raft of U.S. economic reports, including inflation, net capital inflows and housing data, is due this week and these numbers should provide clues as to where rates are headed.

"We continue to see the dollar trade firmly across the board. Basically, one of the prime catalysts has been what is going on with respect to U.S. interest rates," said George Davis, director and chief technical analyst at RBC Capital Markets in Toronto.

"We've seen 10-year yields break above 4.62 percent and basically move continuously higher. I think the fact that we've had very firm interest rates in the United States has been supportive of the U.S. dollar," he added.

On Tuesday, benchmark 10-year Treasury notes were yielding 4.75 percent, down slightly from late Monday.

The euro fell 0.2 percent against the dollar to $1.2913 . Most analysts now expect the euro to trade weaker against the dollar in the near term, with some projecting the currency trading around $1.26 in the coming weeks.

The dollar recovered losses against the Canadian dollar after the Bank of Canada on Tuesday left rates unchanged at 4.25 percent, as widely expected. The pair was last up 0.8 percent at C$1.1762. Also undermining the commodity-linked Canadian dollar was the drop in oil prices, analysts said.

© Reuters 2007. All Rights Reserved.


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