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Wednesday March 7, 2007 - 11:28:36 GMT
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FOREX NEWS-Yen steadies near highs as mkts pause from shakeout

FOREX-Yen steadies near highs as mkts pause from shakeout
Wed Mar 7, 2007 6:20am ET16

(Updates prices, adds quotes, changes byline)

By Veronica Brown

LONDON, March 7 (Reuters) - The yen stabilised near recent peaks versus the euro and dollar on Wednesday, as investors took a breather after a week of unwinding carry trades sparked by a rise in risk aversion and tumbling equity markets.

Investors have curbed their exposure to risk on concerns about the health of the U.S. economy -- specifically its subprime mortgage market, which deals in loans to people with weak credit -- plus geopolitical jitters and a sharp sell off in Chinese equities at the start of last week.

In foreign exchange, this has led to an unwinding of carry trades in which people borrow low-yielding currencies such as the yen or Swiss franc to fund purchases of higher-return assets.

The potential risk is that returns are wiped out by the appreciation of the funding currency, and thus investors are unwilling to hold such trades in times of high volatility.

But after days of sharp moves higher in the yen -- and a brief correction lower on Tuesday -- a precarious calm has descended as share markets stabilise, leaving investors to figure out whether further volatility is on the cards.

Analysts were split on whether the recent moves were the start of a deeper carry trade unwind or whether, with Japanese and Swiss rates seen rising only gradually, investors will return to carry once market volatility eases.

"The dollar/yen movements and yen movements generally are down to watching the equity markets, which makes me think this is more a shakeout of positions that is not necessarily related to any big unwind of yen carry trades," BTM UFJ currency strategist Derek Halpenny said.

By 1057 GMT, the dollar was steady at 116.44 yen , in sight of this week's three-month low of 115.16 yen.

The euro eased slightly to 152.78 yen after posting its biggest weekly loss in 2-1/2 years last week followed by a bounce back of 1 percent on Tuesday.


European equity markets were on firm ground on Wednesday <.FTEU3>, while Japanese stocks booked a modest loss.

The euro was also flat at $1.3121 before a widely expected European Central Bank rate rise to 3.75 percent on Thursday. The focus will be on the post-decision news conference for clues on how soon rates may move to 4 percent.

In the United States, the week's key event is Friday's February non-farm payrolls report. Any signs of a slowing jobs market is likely to boost expectations of Federal Reserve rate cuts late this year. The ADP private sector employment report is due at 1315 GMT on Wednesday although there are some doubts among investors as to whether it's a good barometer of official payrolls numbers.

"After the problems of a couple of months back when the ADP wrongly led the market into expecting a soft payroll number, there may be a reluctance to read too much into it," Ian Gunner, senior FX strategist at Mellon, said in a research note.

With most majors stable, the Australian dollar stood out with gains of around 0.4 percent versus the U.S. currency after data showed Australia's economy grew almost twice as fast as expected in the final three months of 2006.

The Reserve Bank of Australia left rates steady at 6.25 percent earlier on Wednesday, as was widely expected.

© Reuters 2007. All Rights Reserved.


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