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Monday November 19, 2007 - 21:08:21 GMT
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FOREX NEWS-Dollar falls vs yen as risk aversion rises

Mon Nov 19, 2007 3:58pm EST

(Updates prices, recasts)

By Vivianne Rodrigues

NEW YORK, Nov 19 (Reuters) - The dollar declined against the yen on Monday, but held steady versus the euro as a globalrout in stock markets and higher oil prices raised concern about the health of the U.S. economy and left investors wary of risky trades.

Talk that Middle East oil exporters may discuss abandoning fixed exchange rates to the dollar next month also added to negative greenback sentiment as did continued market expectations for lower U.S. interest rates.

But increasing risk aversion helped keep the dollar steady against the euro and a basket of major currencies (.DXY: Quote, Profile, Research) as investors repatriated money from overseas trades.

Investors grew particularly cautious after Goldman Sachs added U.S. banking giant Citigroup (C.N: Quote, Profile, Research) to its "sell" list, saying the bank would likely face more mortgage-related losses next year.

"Uncertainty is swirling around markets and people fear the Fed will cut interest rates again because it is concerned about the possibility of a U.S. recession," said Greg Salvaggio, vice president of trading at Tempus Consulting in Washington. "Investors are going to move out of equity positions and out of risky investments in general."

In late afternoon New York trading, the dollar fell 1 percent to 109.82 yen <JPY=>, edging back toward an 18-month low of 109.12 yen hit last week. Salvaggio said traders could test support around that level over the next few sessions.

Yen buying mirrored weakness in the major Wall Street stock indexes, all of which had lost more than 1.5 percent in late afternoon trading. European equities fell 2.1 percent (.FTEU3: Quote, Profile, Research) on Monday, hit by weakness in financial shares.

The greenback earlier hit a 12-year low of 1.1155 Swiss francs <CHF=>. A fall beneath 1.11 would mark a record low.

Both the yen and Swiss franc gain when investors shed risk because the low-yielding currencies are often used to finance purchases of higher-yield -- and higher-risk -- assets.

The high-yielding Australian dollar <AUD=>, on the other hand, shed 0.8 percent against the greenback. The U.S. dollar also rose more than 1 percent against its Canadian counterpart <CAD=>.

The euro fell 1 percent to 161.04 yen <EURJPY=> but was little changed against the dollar at $1.4663 <EUR=>.

Most analysts expect dollar pressure against the euro to pick up again, as the greenback faces a number of obstacles.

Policy-makers from 20 industrialized and developing economies did not single out the dollar at a weekend meeting in South Africa. But markets expect dollar weakness and inflation to soon force Middle East oil exporters to stop pegging their currencies to the greenback.

Kuwait made that move earlier this year and the United Arab Emirates said last week it may follow suit. The Gulf Cooperation Council, which includes Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman and Bahrain, is expected to review currency issues at a Dec. 3-4 meeting.

Delegates at a weekend meeting of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries clashed over whether to consider pricing oil against a basket of currencies to counter a weak U.S. dollar. [ID:nL18446547]

Were OPEC to quit pricing oil in dollars, markets would likely sell greenbacks for fear exporters would shift some foreign exchange reserves out of the U.S. currency.

"All of this leaves the dollar rather vulnerable to further falls over coming weeks," Calyon strategists said in a research note forecasting the euro would reach $1.50 by year-end.

Some Federal Reserve officials have stressed inflation risks to the U.S. economy, but markets still widely expect the central bank will slash 4.5 percent benchmark rates by a quarter-percentage point at its December meeting.

© 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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