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Thursday February 8, 2007 - 11:04:16 GMT
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FOREX-Yen weakens as G7 nerves settle, euro eyes ECB

FOREX-Yen weakens as G7 nerves settle, euro eyes ECB
Thu Feb 8, 2007 5:58am ET15

(Updates price, adds quotes, changes byline)

By Natsuko Waki

LONDON, Feb 8 (Reuters) - The yen slipped on Thursday as investors grew more convinced that the Group of Seven financial chiefs meeting this week are unlikely to take united action against a weak yen, while the euro eased against the dollar ahead of a euro zone interest rate decision.

The European Central Bank is set to hold interest rates at 3.50 percent, shifting the focus to the tone of the news conference by President Jean-Claude Trichet. He is seen paving the way for a March hike by speaking of the need for "vigilance" on inflation.

European officials have been calling for discussion on the weak yen at the G7 meeting in Essen, Germany, which starts on Friday, but Tokyo and Washington have been playing down the issue, leading to speculation the G7 was unlikely to take concerted action on the yen.

People were more comfortable buying dollars against the yen rather than euros given the focus on euro/yen strength.

"There is less of a panic about the G7 given mixed commentary from various parties. Some people are expecting a template of September when anticipation was high and the G7 didn't result in a significant change in the currency policy," said Trevor Dinmore, currency strategist at Deutsche Bank.

"The ECB is likely to raise rates in March and the potential may be there for a euro reaction should the ECB signal a March rate rise using language such as strong 'vigilance'."

By 1030 GMT, the dollar was at 121.20 yen , up 0.5 percent on the day, off its four-week low of 119.95 set earlier in the week.

Yen selling on carry trades to exploit Japan's low interest rates pushed the dollar to a 4-year high last week and the Japanese currency's trade weighted index to a 21-year low in January.

The euro rose to 157.40 yen , approaching a record high above 158.60 yen hit last month. Against the dollar, the euro was down a quarter percent at $1.2985 .

With investors becoming more comfortable about carry trades again, the Swiss franc -- the second lowest yielding currency in the industrialised world -- also weakened versus the euro and the dollar .


The ECB decision is due at 1245 GMT, followed by Trichet's news conference at 1330 GMT.

With markets priced for a hike in March and then probably another move later in the year, some analysts said there was a risk of a euro sell-off if Trichet's comments are not hawkish enough to justify such expectations.

"Trichet will probably verbally prepare a rate rise in March; accordingly we expect to hear the code word 'vigilant'. Should doubts about a rate rise in March be raised, euro/dollar is likely to come under pressure and drop back towards the low $1.29s," Commerzbank Corporates & Markets said in a note.

"During the press conference Trichet is likely to be asked about the weak yen, which could generate selling pressure in euro/yen and euro/dollar ahead of the G7 meeting."

The Bank of England's rate decision from snow-covered London is also due, at 1200 GMT.

Most expect it to hold rates at 5.25 percent but, wrong footed by last month's surprise rate rise, economists and markets are giving a 25-30 percent chance of a hike this time.

Sterling was down slightly against the dollar and the euro .

The BoE only issues a statement when it moves rates.

© Reuters 2007. All Rights Reserved.


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