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Tuesday February 13, 2007 - 11:38:26 GMT
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FOREX-Strong data support the euro; yen recovers

FOREX-Strong data support the euro; yen recovers
Tue Feb 13, 2007 6:20am ET26

(changes byline, adds quotes, updates prices)

By Toni Vorobyova

LONDON, Feb 13 (Reuters) - The euro rose against the dollar on Tuesday, supported by stronger than expected fourth quarter growth data from the euro-zone, whilst the yen recovered broadly as investors took profits on its recent slide.

On Monday, the yen hit record low against the euro and neared 4-year lows versus the dollar after a weekend Group of Seven meeting did not explicitly warn against the Japanese currency's weakness.

But there was strong support at those levels, leading to a paring of yen losses ahead of Japanese GDP data on Thursday and the Bank of Japan's policy meeting next week.

In the euro zone, economic growth picked up to 0.9 percent in the final three months of 2006, outstripping forecasts of 0.6 percent. National data from the bloc's top three economies -- Germany, France and Italy -- surprised on the upside.

The numbers supported expectations for another European Central Bank rate hike next month but investors were reluctant to push euro/dollar out of its recent tight ranges ahead of testimony by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke this week.

"They (the data) fit in to general picture for stronger growth in most euro area countries this year and some moderation in U.S. growth, and that should also be reflected in the general direction of currency moves," said Johan Javeus, FX strategist SEB Merchant Banking in Stockholm.

"(But) I think that euro/dollar is going to be capped until we see what Bernanke says tomorrow," he added.

By 1054 GMT, the euro was up 0.3 percent on the day at $1.3002 , but staying firmly within the $1.3065-1.2865 range of the past month.

It would take dovish comments from Bernanke to enable a break out above that range, Javeus said.

Germany's ZEW index of investor sentiment improved less than forecast with expectations at +2.9 this month, but the gauge of current conditions unexpectedly rose.


The dollar was down half a percent at 121.32 yen , while broader yen strength dragged the single European currency down 0.2 percent to 157.74 . The euro had hit a record peak against the yen at 159.00 on Monday.

Analysts said that while fundamentals for the yen remained weak due to its low-yielding status, investors were shifting their focus away from the G7 and towards Thursday's fourth-quarter growth data.

But even if the data is solid and the BOJ bumps up rates to a decade-high of 0.5 percent at the two-day meeting ending next Wednesday, that will still be far below rates of 5.25 percent in the United States and 3.5 percent in the euro zone.

That makes it attractive for foreigners to borrow cheaply in the yen and for the Japanese to put their money abroad.

Barclays Capital recommends using any dips in dollar/yen -- such as the one seen now -- as a buying opportunity.

"Structural capital outflows by the Japanese household sector are likely to continue, and we continue to expect dollar/yen to move to 125 beyond the near term," the bank says.

Respite for the dollar could come later in the day with U.S. trade data at 1330 GMT.

Economists polled by Reuters expect the trade deficit to have widened to $59.5 billion in December from $58.23 billion previously, but a lower trade gap figure could prove dollar supportive.

© Reuters 2007. All Rights Reserved.


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