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Wednesday January 24, 2007 - 11:45:38 GMT
Reuters - www.reuters.com

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FOREX-Yen recovers from record lows versus euro

FOREX-Yen recovers from record lows versus euro
Wed Jan 24, 2007 6:31am ET20

(Updates prices, adds fresh quotes, BoE minutes, changes byline)

By Carolyn Cohn

LONDON, Jan 24 (Reuters) - The yen recovered from earlier record lows against the euro on Wednesday, as investors started to unwind positions that were built on the Japanese unit's low-yielding status.

The Australian dollar suffered the most damage against the yen, falling as much as 2 percent after Australian inflation data raised the possibility that its central bank may have ended monetary tightening.

Sterling, meanwhile, fell further from the previous session's 14-year peaks against the yen and dollar after minutes of the Bank of England's latest meeting showed a sharp 5-4 split in favour of this month's surprise UK rate rise to 5.25 percent, compared with expectations of a 7-2 vote.

This followed downbeat comments late on Tuesday by BoE Governor Mervyn King.

"The remarks by King yesterday were considered slightly dovish. That and the Australian CPI triggered some profit-taking in yen short positions," said Armin Mekelburg, currency strategist at Unicredit (HVB) in Munich.

"It's not clear whether markets will resume the path they were on or not, but I think the yen will remain weak."

By 1109 GMT, the euro was trading at 158 yen , off record highs of 158.61 set in Asia, but well above lows of 157.72 yen hit in early European trading.

The dollar was trading at 121.45 yen , down slightly on the day, but well off earlier lows of 120.66. It came within a whisker of near four-year highs of 121.79 in Asia.

The Australian dollar fell as far as 94.41 yen , before recovering to 95.08.

Sterling was at 239.81 yen , down nearly half a percent on the day. Sterling was also down 0.3 percent at $1.9755 , pulling sharply lower from Tuesday's 14-year peak at $1.9917.

YEN CONUNDRUM

The yen has been under pressure after the Bank of Japan left rates unchanged last week, and markets have scaled back expectations of a near-term hike.

BoJ Governor Toshihiko Fukui told Reuters in an interview on Tuesday that higher rates could ultimately benefit the Japanese economy, but that the BOJ would rather err on the side of caution as long as data were mixed.

Investors have driven a number of currencies like the euro, sterling and the Australian dollar to multi-year peaks against the yen in recent weeks, through the so-called carry trade -- borrowing the low-yielding currency to invest in higher-yielding assets.

But some investors have used latest peaks as an opportunity to take profits, traders and analysts said.

BOE SHOCK

Sterling fell, hitting one-week lows against the euro, after minutes of the Jan 10-11 meeting of the BoE's Monetary Policy Committee showed Chief Economist Charles Bean, Deputy Governor Rachel Lomax, Paul Tucker and David Blanchflower voted against a rate rise.

"This will take some of the heat out of sterling. The vote was a lot more split than expected... and could reduce the risk of another near-term rate rise," said Geraldine Concagh, economist at AIB Group Treasury.

Twenty-two of 40 economists polled by Reuters over the past week forecast the BOE would raise interest rates to 5.5 percent by the end of March. The rest expect no change in that period.

However, Britain's economy grew at its fastest quarterly rate in 2-1/2 years, data on Wednesday showed.

Rate decisions in Norway and New Zealand are also due on Wednesday, and European Central Bank Governing Council member Miguel Angel Fernandez Ordonez speaks at 1230 GMT.

© Reuters 2007. All Rights Reserved.

 

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