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Monday April 16, 2007 - 21:54:25 GMT
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FOREX NEWS-Yen sags across the board, hits record low vs euro

FOREX-Yen sags across the board, hits record low vs euro
Mon Apr 16, 2007 5:15pm ET145

(Updates prices, adds comment, changes byline)

By Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss

NEW YORK, April 16 (Reuters) - The yen on Monday plummeted to record lows against the euro and fell to its lowest against the dollar since February after the Group of Seven passed over the issue of the Japanese currency's weakness.

Investors' appetite for high-yielding currencies also helped propel sterling to a near-15-year peak above $1.99 as strong British data reinforced the view that the Bank of England will raise interest rates again as soon as next month.

At a weekend meeting in Washington, G7 finance ministers reiterated calls for exchange rates to reflect economic fundamentals and urged greater currency flexibility in China.

"The Japanese currency has taken quite a hit across the board since the G7 finance ministers' meeting did not specifically mention yen weakness or carry trades," said Alex Beuzelin, senior market analyst at Ruesch International in Washington.

"So, bottom line, it encouraged the markets to add to their carry trade positions. And with deflation a potential concern for Japan, with their rock-bottom yields not expected to move anytime soon, the yen remains the funding vehicle of choice for these carry trades," he added.

Carry trades refer to transactions in which investors borrow funds in low-yielding currencies such as the yen to invest in higher-returning assets like sterling.

The euro rose to a record high of around 162.43 yen earlier, before trimming gains to 162.07 yen by late-afternoon trading in New York, still up 0.5 percent on the day.

The dollar rose to as high as 119.87 yen , its highest since late February, before trading last at 119.72 yen, up 0.4 percent.

Earlier, data on U.S. net capital flows and retail sales had little impact on the greenback. The euro hit a two-year high around $1.3578 but pared gains to $1.3533, flat on the day.

Including short-term securities such as Treasury bills, international investors bought a net $94.5 billion of U.S. securities in February, up from $79.6 billion in January, the Treasury Department said. For details see [ID:nWBT006825].

In other economic data on Monday, a report showed U.S. March retail sales rose slightly more than expected, while manufacturing in the New York region was weaker than expected at the start of April. [ID:nN16285707]

On Tuesday, markets will focus on U.S. inflation data for March. Economists expect the headline Consumer Price Index to rise 0.6 percent on a month-on-month basis and core CPI, which excludes volatile food and energy prices, to edge up 0.2 percent, according to a Reuters poll.

"A lot of traders are just waiting to see what the numbers look like," said Camilla Sutton, senior currency strategist at Scotia Capital in Toronto.

"This is a key turning point for the market. If CPI comes in as expected, I wouldn't expect much reaction, but a surprise on either side will change rate expectations in the U.S.," she added.

Sterling, meanwhile, rallied to as high as $1.9940, its highest since September 1992, after strong producer prices and housing data cemented expectations that British rates will overtake U.S. rates as soon as next month. The British pound traded back down to $1.9897, still up 0.2 percent from late on Friday.

Analysts said a breach of the psychologically key level of $2 to the pound, last seen almost 15 years ago, could come soon, but trading in the currency may be volatile in coming days.

The New Zealand dollar, which at 7.5 percent carries the highest benchmark interest rate in the industrialized world, hit a two-year high of US$0.7413 and a roughly 17-year peak at 88.79 yen .

The Australian dollar hit a 10-year high of 99.90 yen and a 17-year peak at US$0.8359 .

(Additional reporting by David McMahon)

© Reuters 2007. All Rights Reserved.

 

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