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Wednesday March 28, 2007 - 10:11:27 GMT
Reuters - www.reuters.com

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FOREX NEWS-Yen rallies as risk aversion flares, Bernanke eyed

FOREX-Yen rallies as risk aversion flares, Bernanke eyed
Wed Mar 28, 2007 6:05am ET28

(Updates price, adds quotes, changes byline)

By Natsuko Waki

LONDON, March 28 (Reuters) - The yen rallied and high-yielding currencies fell on Wednesday as investors became more risk averse after overnight rumours of conflict, dismissed by the U.S., between the United States and Iran.

The geopolitical jitters prompted a sharp spike in the oil price and falls in equities, adding to risk aversion in markets already on edge after recent softer than expected data from U.S. consumer and housing sectors.

Investors sold risky stocks and unwound carry trades of borrowing in the low-yielding yen to fund purchases of higher return units such as the Australian and New Zealand dollars.


Separately, Britain's Ministry of Defence denied a market rumour that Britain had sent troops to rescue 15 military personnel held in Iran.

The focus was turning to U.S. durable goods data and a speech by Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke later.

"Bernanke is speaking specifically on housing. He mostly is likely to say there are concerns on the subprime but the Fed doesn't expect this to spread to other part of the economy. There will be slight net dollar negative risks around Bernanke," Levinson said.

The dollar hit a one-week low at 117.10 yen, before trimming losses to stand 0.3 percent down on the day at 117.42 yen by 0945 GMT.

The euro was down 0.5 percent at 156.51 yen , retreating from Tuesday's one-month high of 158.03.

The high-yielding Australian and New Zealand dollars fell 0.4 and 0.7 percent versus the greenback, respectively.

The euro was down 0.1 percent at $1.3338 .

The Swiss franc strengthened against the euro but held steady versus the dollar after Switzerland's KOF indicator of business expectations rose to a higher-than-expected 1.9 in March.

BACK TO FUNDAMENTALS

Yield differentials and economic fundamentals are likely to come back into focus later in the session when testimony from Bernanke could shed light on the likelihood of a near-term U.S. interest rate cut from the current 5.25 percent.

Such expectations have been boosted this week by softer-than-forecast U.S. consumer confidence data and lingering worries about a slowing housing market.

Investors are looking to see what Fed's Bernanke tells Congress about the wider economic impact from the growing troubles in the subprime mortgage sector.

"Hawkish Fed comments combined with untrammelled concerns in the markets about the systemic risk to the financial markets from defaults on U.S. sub-prime mortgages, would set the Fed up to be criticised as being overly complacent about growth while dovish comments from Bernanke would fuel recession fears," Royal Bank of Canada said in a note to clients.

The testimony comes a week after the Fed dropped a reference made at its previous meeing in January to the possible need for "additional firming" of monetary policy from its post-meeting statement after keeping rates unchanged.

© Reuters 2007. All Rights Reserved.

 

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