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Dollar, yen gain as investors seek ‘safer’ assets

Posted on: February 12, 2009


Reuters – 1 hour 21 minutes ago

Photo credit : leasing2008 on flickr

* Dlr at 90.00 yen <JPY=>, euro down at 115.70 yen <EURJPY=>

* Markets unimpressed by U.S. package agreement, bank plan

* Relative high-yielding currencies fall the most

By Jamie McGeever and Kylie MacLennan

dollar-and-yenLONDON, Feb 12 – The dollar and yen strengthened on Thursday, boosted by their perceived safety in the eyes of investors worried about the potency of government policies to combat recession and bank-led weakness in global stock markets.

This nervous climate across financial markets also fueled strong demand for government debt, while the biggest losers among major currencies were the Australian and New Zealand dollars, and sterling.

A record fall in euro zone industrial production strengthened the likelihood the European Central Bank will cut interest rates next month, something a string of ECB officials have given heavy hints to over the past week.

Meanwhile, the Bank of England’s quarterly inflation report on Wednesday — where it said it is ready to take unconventional policy easing steps and indicated it may be comfortable with a weaker exchange rate — kept sterling under selling pressure.

“The fact we’re in the middle of an economic downturn continues to drive periodic phases of risk aversion, sometimes short-lived,” said Robert Minikin, head of FX strategy at Standard Chartered.

“We have seen a drop in dollar/yen over the past 48 hours … but we’re really only back to the average mean of the trading range,” he said.

Disappointment after the U.S. bank rescue plan on Tuesday fell short on detail continued to pervade market sentiment. Investors remained wary despite U.S. Congress reaching a compromise deal on the economic stimulus package.

At 1230 GMT the dollar was down 0.4 percent at 90.05 yen <JPY=> and the euro was down 0.85 percent against the Japanese currency at 115.70 yen <EURJPY=>.

The dollar index was up 0.3 percent at 86.10 <.DXY>.

The euro was down 0.3 percent against the greenback at $1.2855 <EUR=> but was up 0.8 percent against the struggling UK pound at 90.35 pence <EURGBP=>.

Knocked by the BoE’s statement that it may take steps such as buying gilts to boost the money supply, the pound was down 1 percent at $1.4230 <GBP=>.

The Australian dollar <AUD=D4> was down 1 percent at $0.6492, also hit by parliament rejected the government’s A$42 billion economic stimulus plan.

U.S. SCEPTICISM

Japanese stocks fell 3 percent <.N225>, major European bourses were down 1 percent <.FTEU3> or more and U.S. futures pointed to the three major U.S. indices opening down as much as 0.8 percent.

On the data front, a record fall in euro zone industrial production in December [ID:nLB796295] weighed broadly on the euro and strengthened the view that the European Central Bank will cut rates again soon.

Several ECB officials on Wednesday confirmed market expectations the central bank will cut interest rates next month, something which ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet indicated after keeping rates on hold at 2 percent last week.

Trichet speak again later on Thursday.

Markets could get a fresh steer on the U.S. economy later on Thursday from January retail sales figures at 1230 GMT. Total sales are forecast to fall 0.8 percent after tumbling 2.7 percent in December, while sales excluding autos are seen 0.5 percent down after a record 3.1 percent plunge in December.

“There is disappointment on the news coming out of the States on both the stimulus plan and the bank bailout, and the optimism that greeted a rise in the Baltic dry index last week … has faded pretty quickly as people realise that economic growth isn’t going to turn on a sixpence,” said Paul Robson, currency strategist at RBS in London.

U.S. congressional negotiators reached a deal on Wednesday on $789 billion in emergency spending and tax cuts aimed at pulling the economy out of a deepening recession, and voting on it could take place as early as on Thursday. [ID:nN11379390]

Currency investors will also be alert to headlines that may start to hit the wires ahead of the meeting in Rome Friday of Group of Seven finance chiefs. For more on the G7, see [ID:nL5706416].

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