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Thursday November 1, 2007 - 22:21:32 GMT
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FOREX NEWS-Yen rises as risk appetite sours on U.S. stocks

Thu Nov 1, 2007 4:40pm EDT

(Updates prices, adds quotes, changes byline)

By Walker Simon

NEW YORK, Nov 1 (Reuters) - The yen rose broadly on Thursday after brokerages downgraded two of the largest U.S. banks, stinging equities and sapping investor appetite for risk.

Among the hardest hit currencies on the day were the Australian and New Zealand dollars, the focus of "carry trade" bets by speculators borrowing in low interest rate currencies like the yen in order to buy higher interest rate assets in Australia and its neighbor.

When volatility slaps stock markets, that dulls investors' tolerance for risk, triggering a bailout of carry trade bets, with investors repaying yen loans, thus boosting demand for the Japanese currency.

"Investors closed out of carry trades after the U.S. stock market tumbled on a ratings downgrade of Citigroup," said David Powell, currency strategist at IDEAglobal in New York.

"Since last July, the yen has closely tracked the Dow Jones industrial average," he said. "When the DJIA slumps, the yen gains as investors square out carry trade positions."

The dollar fell 0.6 percent against the yen to 114.58 yen <JPY=>, after falling as low as 114.50 yen. The euro was down 1 percent at 165.40 yen <EURJPY=>.

The euro also slipped 0.3 percent against the dollar to $1.4439 <EUR=>, a day after it hit a record peak above $1.45, according to Reuters data.

The Australian dollar <AUD=> fell 2 percent versus the greenback to US$0.9137. On Wednesday, it surged to a 23-year peak above US$0.9340. The Australian dollar was on track for its biggest one-day decline against the U.S. unit since August.

The blue-chip Dow Jones industrial average (.DJI: Quote, Profile, Research) and broader S&P 500 index (.SPX: Quote, Profile, Research) both tumbled 2.6 percent on Thursday after brokerages downgraded the two biggest U.S. banks -- Citibank (C.N: Quote, Profile, Research) and Bank of America (BAC.N: Quote, Profile, Research), sparking fears of more credit crisis fallout.

The VIX (.VIX: Quote, Profile, Research) equities option index, often known as the "fear index," jumped nearly 26 percent, its sharpest rise in nearly eight months, reflecting more perceived investment risk.

Against the yen, the Australian dollar dropped 2.7 percent to 104.60 <AUDJPY=>.

The New Zealand dollar <NZD=> tumbled 1.65 percent to US$0.7591. It slumped 2.5 percent against the yen <NZDJPY=> to 86.82 yen.

Trading in the U.S. dollar against currencies outside the yen was subdued ahead of the October U.S. employment report on Friday, which could heavily influence views on what the Fed may do at its next policy meeting in December.

Dealers in the interest rate futures market have priced in a 64 percent implied chance of a Fed rate cut next month, up from about 42 percent late Wednesday. Analysts said the increase was mainly due to the steep losses in U.S. equities.

© Reuters 2006. 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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