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Monday January 22, 2007 - 11:29:04 GMT
Reuters - www.reuters.com

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FOREX-Yen hits fresh lows as carry trades rule

FOREX-Yen hits fresh lows as carry trades rule
Mon Jan 22, 2007 6:01am ET14

(Changes byline, adds quotes, updates prices)

By Toni Vorobyova

LONDON, Jan 22 (Reuters) - The yen hit a near 4-year low versus the dollar and 8-year troughs against sterling on Monday as investors stayed with the hunt for higher yields after last week's Bank of Japan decision to keep interest rates steady.

Japanese rates, at just 0.25 percent, have made the yen a currency of choice for carry trades, where investors use low yielding units to fund purchases of others with a higher return.

"I think carry remains king in this environment where the Bank of Japan's inaction has solidified the yen's status as a funding currency," said Kamal Sharma, currency strategist at Bank of America.

Data showed speculators on the International Monetary Market racked up a net yen short position of 138,146 contracts by last Tuesday, a record high, but analysts said extreme positioning would not stop the Japanese currency from weakening further.

"So long as volatility remains relatively depressed then carry trades will continue to work fairly well," said Adam Cole senior currency strategist RBC Capital Markets.

By 1051 GMT, the dollar was up 0.3 percent on the day at 121.62 yen, around levels last seen in March 2003 . Traders said the dollar's gains were accentuated by the taking out of stop-loss levels around the 121.50 level.

The yen hit 9-1/2 year lows against the high-yielding Australian dollar and an 8-year trough versus sterling .

The euro firmed 0.2 percent to 157.52 yen , nudging towards the all-time high around 158 yen struck earlier this month. The single European currency also held steady at 1.6188 Swiss francs , near a recent 8-year peak.

Against the dollar, the euro edged down to $1.2947 .

STEADY DOLLAR, STEADY FED

The dollar remained on a solid footing after upbeat U.S. consumer sentiment data late last week capped a week of strong economic reports that reinforced the outlook for the Federal Reserve to hold interest rates steady at 5.25 percent in the months ahead, rather than cut them.

The highlights of a relatively light calendar on Monday are, U.S. leading indicators for December at 1500 GMT and a speech on the national economic outlook from U.S. Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco President Janet Yellen at 2020 GMT.

Yellen is the last U.S. policymaker scheduled to speak before the next Fed meeting on Jan. 30-31.

"The ongoing theme of highlighting risks of elevated core inflationary pressures is at the forefront of Fed thinking and that tends to suggest that over the next couple of meetings or so the Fed is likely to remain on hold," said Sharma at Bank of America.

© Reuters 2007. All Rights Reserved.

 

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