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Monday January 29, 2007 - 11:18:22 GMT
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FOREX-Dlr scales 4-yr peak above 122 yen on rates view

FOREX-Dlr scales 4-yr peak above 122 yen on rates view
Mon Jan 29, 2007 6:13am ET143

(Changes byline, adds quotes, updates prices)

By Veronica Brown

LONDON, Jan 29 (Reuters) - The dollar hit a four-year high against the yen on Monday, supported by robust U.S. economic data that helped persuade investors that the Federal Reserve may not cut interest rates this year.

Stronger than expected December U.S. durable goods orders and new home sales data released on Friday were the latest in a series of robust figures backing a view that the world's biggest economy can avoid a hard landing and may not need a rate cut from the current 5.25 percent.

In contrast, Japanese inflation data came in below expectations last week and Monday's retail sales numbers for December showed a fall year-on-year, suggesting the Bank of Japan may find it difficult to justify a rate hike at its February meeting.

"Instead of building in a 25 basis point cut from the Fed, the market now is slowly turning away from that and even saying there could be a tightening. It will take very little to start pricing in a tightening now," Adam Myers, currency strategist at UBS said.

"The reverse seems to have happened in Japan... We may not get the 50 basis points of tightening from the BOJ this year that many people were expecting," he added.

Japan's low interest rates have fuelled carry trades -- borrowing the yen in order to fund investments in higher yielding units such as the dollar or sterling.

The latest data from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission show that speculators amassed record short yen positions and record long sterling positions in the week to last Tuesday.

At 1055 GMT the dollar was up a third of a percent on the day at 121.96 yen, having earlier hit a 4-year peak of 122.19 . Analysts said that from a technical level, the breach of 122 yen -- however brief -- opened up the door for fresh highs.

The euro also gained 0.2 percent on the day to 157.40 yen , moving towards last week's record peak above 158.60.

The euro also rose against the Swiss franc, another low yielder, ticking up to 1.62 francs , around 30 ticks off last week's 8-year high.

The euro was steady against the dollar at $1.2906 on a quiet day for euro zone and U.S. economic releases.


Investors are looking ahead to several U.S. economic indicators this week including core PCE inflation, advance fourth quarter growth and payrolls, as well as the Fed's rate-setting meeting ending on Wednesday.

The U.S. central bank is widely expected to keep rates unchanged at 5.25 percent but may signal the likely direction of future policy.

"It will be interesting to see whether the Fed will refer to the stronger economic data in its accompanying statement or whether these will be attributed merely to special factors like the mild weather and falling energy prices," Commerzbank Corporates & Markets said in a research report.

"The former would suggest the Fed sticking to its wait and see attitude, whilst the latter would leave the door open for a possible rate cut in the first half of this year."

There are signs that some countries are getting worried that the yen's weakness could hurt their exports, and speculation the topic could come up at the Feb. 9-10 meeting of Group of Seven finance ministers and central bankers.

European Central Bank Governor Axel Weber told Reuters over the weekend that he cannot rule out a discussion of the yen weakness at the G7 meeting, but added that it would not be useful to treat the Japanese currency as an isolated topic.

For further clues on the likely G7 message, investors will look to comments from euro zone finance ministers and ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet meeting in Brussels from 1800 GMT.

© Reuters 2007. All Rights Reserved.


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