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Tuesday February 27, 2007 - 11:08:18 GMT
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FOREX-Yen rallies as risk appetite abates

FOREX-Yen rallies as risk appetite abates
Tue Feb 27, 2007 6:02am ET28

(Updates price, adds quotes, changes byline) By Toni Vorobyova

LONDON, Feb 27 (Reuters) - The yen rallied against major currencies on Tuesday as falling global stocks, concern about Iran's nuclear programme and jitters ahead of key U.S. data prompted some investors to unwind carry trades.

The dollar hit a two-month low against the euro, extending its grind lower ahead of figures from the U.S. housing and consumer sectors which could fan concern about a slowdown in the world's biggest economy and a possible interest rate cut.

Geopolitical concerns, jitters about rising defaults among high-risk borrowers in U.S. sub-prime mortgages as well as falling stock markets made investors wary of taking on risk and prompted them to buy back low-yielding currencies such as the yen and Swiss franc.

"There are a number of factors which in combination are making people a little uneasy. In terms of FX the yen has borne the brunt of that. Being short yen, to the extent which the market currently is, requires generally a very low risk background," said Ian Gunner, head of FX research at Mellon.

"With equity markets showing some strain ... the Iranian situation and the recovery in the oil price has just tweaked those concerns a little further this week."

Iran said on Tuesday it would never suspend uranium enrichment as demanded by the West. The stand comes a day after major powers agreed to work on a new U.N. Security Council resolution to pressure on Tehran over its nuclear programme.

By 1039 GMT, the dollar was down 1 percent at 119.36 yen , a one-week low. The euro was down 0.8 percent at 157.66 yen .

The yen has wiped out all the losses made against the dollar after the Bank of Japan signalled last Wednesday it would be slow in raising interest rates.

The Swiss franc hit a two-month high of 1.2229 per dollar and was up 0.2 percent at 1.6184 per euro.

The euro hit a two-month high of $1.3230 , up a third of a percent on the day.

Markets showed little reaction to news that euro zone M3 money supply rose more than expected in January, or to euro zone monetary sources telling Reuters that the European Central Bank is undecided on whether to signal more rate hikes after a widely anticipated rise next week.

"It's not as if they are saying ... rates will peak in March. The basic message there is that it's a bit unclear at the moment, which is not that negative for the euro," said Gunner.

"Perhaps on another day it could have had more impact but the key thing today is all about the yen," he added.


Traders awaited January figures on U.S. durable goods at 1330 GMT and February consumer confidence at 1500 GMT.

The focus was also on existing home sales for January, given growing concerns about riskier mortgage deals, some of which have gone awry in the housing market downturn.

"There is potential for negative U.S. data surprises today with housing, durable goods and consumer confidence releases all having risks skewed to the downside," BNP Paribas said.

"There is also the potential for a significant downward revision to the US Q4 GDP data, due for release tomorrow, by as much as a full percentage point, putting the dollar under additional pressure," the bank added in a research note.

The consensus is for GDP to be revised down to an annualised 2.4 percent from an earlier estimate of 3.5 percent.

Investors are wary that a possible Federal Reserve interest rate cut later this year could take shine off the dollar's yield premium at a time when the ECB is tightening monetary policy.

Falling stock markets around the world are also hurting investors' risk appetite. Chinese stocks plunged almost 9 percent, their biggest drop in 10 years, while European equities were down more than 1 percent.

© Reuters 2007. All Rights Reserved.


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