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Thursday February 8, 2007 - 00:32:21 GMT
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FOREX-Yen under pressure; market sees no tough talk from G7

FOREX-Yen under pressure; market sees no tough talk from G7
Wed Feb 7, 2007 4:31pm ET31
(Recasts; adds comments, updates prices)

By Nick Olivari

NEW YORK, Feb 7 (Reuters) - The yen lost ground against the dollar and euro on Wednesday amid increased expectations that Group of Seven finance ministers will not take a tough stance on the Japanese currency's weakness at their weekend meeting.

A senior official at Japan's Finance Ministry said on Wednesday the yen could be discussed at the G7 gathering in Essen, Germany, but that it was unlikely to be the main subject of the talks.

That followed comments earlier this week by U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson who said the yen's value was set by market fundamentals, suggesting Washington does not have a problem with the Japanese currency's weakness.

"I doubt they will issue any statement on the yen of any consequence and it will be more finance ministers talk afterward about what was said," said Craig Russell, chief marketing strategist at IKON Global Markets in Chicago. "It is the obvious topic on everyone's lips."

The G7 meeting will be held on Friday and Saturday.

In late afternoon trading in New York, the dollar had edged up 0.5 percent on the day to 120.65 yen . The euro gained 0.7 percent to 156.96 yen , rebounding further from three-week lows touched on Tuesday.

The comments by Paulson and Japan's finance official stood in stark contrast to those of German Deputy Finance Minister Thomas Mirow, who said on Wednesday that a discussion of foreign exchange rates will play a key role at the G7, adding that the yen is "an important currency."

Mirow's remarks added a tinge of uncertainty to the market, prompting some traders not to rule out buying the yen again. European officials have been generally unhappy about the weak yen since it makes euro zone exports more expensive in Japan.

But Merrill Lynch's FX Strategy Group in London said in a research note to clients on Wednesday: "We do not expect a yen-specific comment."

With the markets focused on the yen, Wednesday's economic data on U.S. business productivity for the fourth quarter had little impact. Non-farm productivity rose at a much stronger-than-expected pace, but the dollar hardly budged. For details, see [ID:nN07416498]

"The upshot is the data will not change broad impressions on productivity or unit labor costs much and the market impact is seen as limited," said Alan Ruskin, chief international strategist at RBS Greenwich Capital.

The euro rose 0.2 percent against the dollar at $1.3011 .

Brian Dolan, director of FX research at in Bedminster, New Jersey, said the euro needs to take out the $1.3067 level for the market to be more comfortable with the currency's upside.

Against the Swiss franc, the dollar gained 0.1 percent at 1.2413 francs .

The debate about the yen and whether there would or would not be a G7 statement on its weakness, nearly overshadowed the anticipated rate decisions from the Bank of England and European Central Bank on Thursday.

The BoE's Monetary Policy Committee is widely expected to leave rates on hold at 5.25 percent. But following its surprise rate increase last month, traders are not entirely dismissing the MPC's ability to surprise again.

The ECB is also expected to keep interest rates on hold at 3.5 percent and traders are awaiting post-meeting comments from ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet for clues on where euro zone rates are headed.

© Reuters 2007. All Rights Reserved.


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