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Monday January 18, 2010 - 11:21:52 GMT
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FOREX NEWS-Euro under pressure, sterling gains in thin trade

5:51am EST

* Euro remains pressured; trade thin with U.S. holiday

* Sterling hits 4-mo high vs euro of 87.82 pence <EURGBP=D4>

* SNB's Hildebrand says will fight franc appreciation (Adds quotes, updates prices)

By Tamawa Desai

LONDON, Jan 18 (Reuters) - The euro hit a four-month low against a broadly firmer pound on Monday, under pressure in subdued trade with U.S. markets closed for a holiday.

Concerns over Greece's ballooning fiscal deficit weighed on the single currency and the market will watch for comments from euro zone finance ministers meeting on Monday. [ID:nLDE60E1AB]

"The Greek government has lost all fiscal credibility with the market," said Lee Hardman, currency economist at Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ.

"We are also seeing some risk aversion on slowing growth momentum in developed economies such as Germany."

Sterling gained on firmer UK housing data [ID:nLDE60D1MQ] and as speculative players chased it higher on reports that French utility GDF Suez <GSZ.PA> was eyeing a tie-up with Britain's International Power <IPR.L>.[ID:nLDE60G09P]

By 1025 GMT, the euro was flat on the day at $1.4376 <EUR=>. Traders said options with a $1.4400 strike price expiring later on Monday were helping to rein in the pair.

Against the pound, the euro was down 0.6 percent at 87.82 pence <EURGBP=D4>, its lowest since mid-September. Sterling also hit a one-month high against the dollar at $1.6380 <GBP=D4>.

"Following last week's strong performance, the pound is likely to remain underpinned by potential upside surprises in economic data this week," analysts at Barclays said in a note. UK inflation, jobs and retail sales data are due this week.

The dollar index, a gauge of the greenback's performance against six other major currencies, was at 77.135, versus Friday's U.S. close of 77.323 <.DXY>.

Commodity Futures Trading Commission data released on Friday showed the value of the dollar's net short position was around $2.7 billion in the week ending Jan. 12, shifting from a net long of $4.25 billion the previous week, according to Reuters calculations. This was the first net short position on the dollar since Dec. 15. [ID:nN15579709]

The data also showed a swing to a net long Swiss franc position of 13,926 from a net short position the previous week.

This was the largest net long position since early December, Barclays analysts said.


Swiss National Bank head Philipp Hildebrand was quoted as saying on Sunday the central bank would act resolutely to prevent an excessive appreciation of the franc to ward off the danger of deflation. [ID:nLDE60G061]

"We will not allow the risk of deflation to be realised in Switzerland through such an appreciation," Hildebrand told Swiss weekly Sonntags-Zeitung. "We do not have an exchange rate target, but we will resolutely prevent an excessive appreciation of the franc in the current environment."

The euro was little changed at 1.4757 francs <EURGBP=R>, off a 10-month low around 1.4720 francs earlier this month.

The yen showed little reaction to a funding scandal linked to the No. 2 executive in Japan's ruling party [ID:nTOE60G016] and as Japan Airlines <9205.T> looked to be filing for bankruptcy on Tuesday.[ID:nTOE60D089]

Market players speculated the company may have to liquidate some of its dollar-buying derivative contracts or repatriate overseas assets. But the market has not seen such flows so far, traders said. The dollar rose 0.1 percent to 90.89 yen <JPY=>.

U.S. markets will be closed on Monday for Martin Luther King Day.

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