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Friday May 18, 2007 - 10:31:55 GMT
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FOREX NEWS-Yen hits 3-mth low vs dlr, carry trades weigh

FOREX-Yen hits 3-mth low vs dlr, carry trades weigh
Fri May 18, 2007 6:22 AM ET

(Changes byline, adds quotes, update prices)

By Veronica Brown

LONDON, May 18 (Reuters) - The dollar hit a fresh three-month high against the yen while the euro eyed a record peak against the low-yielding Japanese currency on Friday as investors continued to seek returns from higher-yielding assets.

The yen took a brief flurry higher amid speculation over an imminent Chinese central bank rate hike, but quickly moved back into normal trading ranges as the talk was unsubstantiated.

The dollar gave back some of the previous day's gains against European currencies, but remained broadly supported as investors gradually reduced their bets on the Federal Reserve cutting interest rates this year following some recent U.S. economic data.

A measure of U.S. business activity and weekly jobless claims data on Thursday were the latest reports to suggest the economy might not be braking as much as previously thought.

Although the euro and sterling managed to recoup come of these losses on Friday, the dollar remained firm against the yen.

"We're in an environment of strong risk appetite generally, the European equity markets have done well today, and implied dollar/yen levels are at low levels. Low volatilities and high risk appetite are going to pressure the yen," BTM UFJ currency strategist Derek Halpenny said.

By 1008 GMT, the dollar was steady at 121.30 yen , having hit a three-month high of 121.39 earlier.

The euro was steady versus the dollar at $1.3488 , within sight of the one-month low of $1.3462 hit late last week and around two cents below its record high.

The euro was also steady against the yen at 163.67 -- within sight of this week's lifetime peak hit at 163.91 yen .

In equity markets, the pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index was up 0.5 percent <.FTEU3>.


The yen had slipped after Japan's first-quarter gross domestic product data on Thursday showed annualised growth of 2.4 percent, slightly below market forecasts.

It has struggled even after Japan's central bank chief on Thursday underlined the need to raise interest rates later despite the absence of inflation.

Bank of Japan Governor Toshihiko Fukui said the BOJ could raise interest rates even if consumer prices were still falling, but added that it could do so only after confirming a future upward trend in prices.

Analysts expect the BOJ to raise rates to 0.75 percent as soon as August or September. However, at that point, they also expect the European Central Bank, and possibly the Bank of England, to have raised borrowing costs again as well, keeping the yen at a disadvantage in attracting yield-hungry investors.

In what is shaping up to be a relatively light session in terms of data, attention could turn to the Group of Eight finance ministers meeting in Potsdam, Germany later Friday.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson is not attending, so analysts aren't expecting much.

There are some suggestions that currency rates will be discussed. But the ministers' stance is unlikely to differ from the G7 position, which is that China and other countries should allow their currencies to trade more freely, exchange rates are best set in open and competitive markets, and abrupt market moves aren't good for growth.

"Although comments from Canadian Finance Ministry officials have suggested that this weekend's communique will have language on forex policy, it seems likely that this will merely be a repeat of the line taken at the Washington meeting in April," RBC Capital Markets currency strategists said in a note on Friday.

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