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Saturday May 19, 2007 - 11:51:43 GMT
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FOREX NEWS-Yen steady after China widens yuan band

FOREX-Yen steady after China widens yuan band
Fri May 18, 2007 4:45 PM ET

(Recasts, updates prices)

By David McMahon

NEW YORK, May 18 (Reuters) - The Japanese yen firmed marginally on Friday after China widened the yuan's trading band against the U.S. dollar, with investors judging the move would do little to speed up the pace of the Chinese currency's rise.

The yen, Asia's most liquid currency, which often trades as a proxy for the tightly controlled yuan, initially jumped after China said it would allow the yuan to rise or fall 0.5 percent against the dollar daily, up from 0.3 percent in the current trading band.

But the yen's gains were quickly reversed as many investors expect the People's Bank of China to keep a tight grip on the currency, and keep intervening to prevent a rapid appreciation that could slow export growth and hurt the economy.

"Just because they widened the band doesn't mean much since the currency wasn't really fluctuating to the limits of the band anyway," said Kenneth Landon, G10 currency strategist at JPMorgan Chase in New York.

Non-deliverable yuan forwards imply that the market is still expecting the yuan to rise about 5.5 percent in the coming year, roughly in line with the amount the currency has appreciated since a revaluation in mid 2005.

China's move, which also included a rise in interest rates to slow economic growth, came ahead of a meeting between U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and China Vice Minister Wu Yi next week.

The U.S. dollar was little changed against most major currencies and failed to get a lift from a survey showing that U.S. consumers unexpectedly became more optimistic on the economy in May. For details see [ID:nN18490115]

Late afternoon in New York, the dollar was down 0.08 percent against the yen at 121.07 yen , after falling as low as 120.69 yen. The pair was still in sight of a 3-month high of 121.37 yen hit in the previous session.

The yen has declined across the board this year as the lowest interest rates in the industrialized world, and declining volatility in other markets have encouraged speculators to borrow the currency to fund purchases of higher yielding assets.

"The China move has some impact on sentiment, but at this stage the yen is still perceived as a funding currency and low volatility means that this remains an attractive strategy," said Nick Bennenbroek, head of currency strategy in New York for Wells Fargo.

The euro was up 0.1 percent against the dollar at $1.3508 , well short of a record peak of just above $1.3680 hit last month.

The dollar has steadied this month due to a series of unexpectedly robust U.S. economic data, posting its third consecutive weekly gain against the euro and Swiss franc, and the fourth straight rise against sterling and the yen.

After stronger than expected data this week on housing starts, the manufacturing sector, jobless claims, and consumer confidence, investors have pared back their expectations that the Federal Reserve will cut interest rates this year.

Eurodollar futures suggest the market now sees only a roughly two in three chance that the Fed will cut interest rates a quarter percentage point from 5.25 percent this year, compared to close to 100 percent earlier in the week.

The biggest mover on Friday was the Canadian dollar, which jumped to a near 30-year high against the U.S. currency after data showed domestic retail sales in March surged on booming automobile and gas sales.

The U.S. dollar fell 0.9 percent to C$1.0893, after dipping as low as C$1.0877, according to Reuters data.

(Additional reporting by Kevin Plumberg and Nick Olivari)

© Reuters 2007. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of Reuters content, including by caching, framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Reuters. Reuters and the Reuters sphere logo are registered trademarks and trademarks of the Reuters group of companies around the world.


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