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Friday January 26, 2007 - 13:00:50 GMT -

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FOREX-Yen weakness returns post-CPI; U.S. data due - Fri Jan 26, 2007 6:23 AM ET

By Toni Vorobyova

LONDON, Jan 26 (Reuters) - The yen fell towards recent 4-year lows versus the dollar on Friday after soft Japanese inflation figures undid a hefty bout of short-covering and cast doubt on whether the Bank of Japan will raise rates next month.

The greenback ticked up against the euro as investors awaited U.S. housing and durable goods data for the latest steer on the health of the world's largest economy ahead of a Federal Reserve rate meeting next week.

Japanese core consumer prices rose just 0.1 percent in December from a year earlier, suggesting Japan is struggling to shake off a decade of deflation and adding to speculation the BOJ may keep rates at 0.25 percent at its February meeting.

"The weak inflation ... certainly doesn't add to the likelihood that the BOJ would want to go for a hike in February. I think it still leaves that meeting and perhaps the next meeting very much in the air," said Laura Ambroseno, currency strategist at Morgan Stanley.

A Reuters poll on Friday found 20 of 39 traders and analysts in Tokyo's bond and foreign exchange markets expect the BOJ to leave rates on hold next month, a slight shift from a survey last week when most respondents believed a rate rise was likely.

By 1044 GMT, the dollar was up 0.2 percent at 121.40 yen moving back towards this week's four-year high of 121.79.

The euro was steady on the day at 156.84 yen , having earlier hit a session high above 157.40 yen after the CPI, about one yen short of a record peak hit on Wednesday.

The euro was a touch softer at $1.2912 .

It reacted little to data showing euro zone M3 money supply growth accelerated to 9.7 percent in December versus forecasts it would fall back to 9.1 pct from 9.3 percent in November.

"The strong money growth figures leave little doubt that the European Central Bank will hike rates by 25 basis points in March," ING economist Martin van Vliet said in a research note.

"However, a likely further decline in private sector loan growth in coming months should act as a reminder that any additional ECB tightening is likely to be modest."


The yen gave up nearly all its hefty gains made in the previous two days against the dollar when investors rushed to reverse extreme short positions and unwind carry trades amid speculation that the weak Japanese currency could be discussed at next month's Group of Seven meeting.

Any sharp appreciation of the yen could erase profits from carry trades, where investors borrow in low-yielding currencies like yen to buy assets in countries with higher interest rates.

But after digesting a barrage of comments from European and Japanese officials, most analysts seemed to conclude that the Feb. 9-10 summit would not yield a group statement on the yen.

"I don't think we are at period of time where there is going to be international support to (counter) the weakness of the yen ... We are not expecting anything major when all is said and done from the G7," said Ambroseno at Morgan Stanley.

Traders said the bout of yen short covering had probably run its course, but the dollar would have a tough time pushing above 122 yen as market players await the Fed's Jan. 30-31 meeting.

Strong U.S. data in recent weeks have led markets to price out expectations for a rate cut and most now see rates on hold at 5.25 percent for the next few months.

Durable good orders, due at 1330 GMT, are expected to post an annual rise of 2.5 percent in December. New home sales for the same month, released at 1500 GMT, are expected to total 1.05 million, little changed from November.

© Reuters 2007. All rights reserved.


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