FOREX-Yen falls as Japan headed towards early election

Wed Nov 14, 2012 6:08pm IST

* Japan PM Noda open to dissolving parliament on Friday

* Analysts expect more pressure on BOJ to ease policy

* Dollar/yen, euro/yen surge after Noda's comments

* Euro off a two-month low vs dollar

By Philip Baillie

LONDON, Nov 14 (Reuters) - The yen fell sharply on Wednesday after Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said he was ready to dissolve the lower house of parliament later this week and hold a snap election next month.

With the main opposition Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which favours further monetary policy easing by the Bank of Japan, leading in opinion polls, the prospect of an early election is regarded as negative for the currency.

LDP leader Shinzo Abe called on the central bank on Wednesday to print "unlimited yen" to achieve a new inflation target.

The yen fell against the dollar and the euro as hedge funds and long-term investors such as asset managers sold, traders said. The dollar rose 0.9 percent to 80.12 yen and the euro climbed 1.2 percent on the day to 102.10 yen.

Noda told parliament he would be willing to dissolve the lower house on Nov. 16 and hold elections in December if the opposition agreed to pass reforms to the electoral system. A senior lawmaker from his ruling Democratic party said an election was likely to be held on Dec. 16.

"It is very likely the LDP will take over the lower house again and very clear they will be pressuring the BOJ to become more dovish as they have spoken about raising the inflation target," said Geoff Kendrick, currency analyst at Nomura.

"We are expecting dollar/yen to head up to around 82 yen by the end of the year and then head higher again next year so we are certainly biased towards a buy dollar/yen position."

The LDP's Abe, a vocal critic of the BOJ, has called for a new 3 percent inflation target, three times the current goal, and for the bank to take bolder action to fight deflation.

"The financial markets can now begin to price more confidently the risk of more overt political pressure on the BOJ to rid Japan of deflation," Derek Halpenny, European head of global market research at Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi, wrote in a note. He expected the yen to be under pressure in coming months.

Investors are also worried the LDP may be less committed to fiscal belt-tightening measures such as planned tax hikes than Noda's party, adding to caution about the yen.

FED AND THE DOLLAR

The yen aside, the dollar eased against most major currencies including the euro and the Swiss franc on growing signs that the Federal Reserve is likely to adopt an ultra-loose monetary stance in coming months.

Influential Fed Reserve Vice Chair Janet Yellen said on Tuesday that U.S. interest rates may need to stay near zero until early 2016 to forcefully lift employment.

The minutes from the latest Federal Open Market Committee meeting will be released later on Wednesday and are likely to confirm an easy policy bias for some time to come, a factor which could limit the dollar's recent gains.

"It is likely we will get a discussion around more QE being done in the December meeting. What happens between now and then depends on fiscal cliff discussions, if they can get an agreement passed by the Fed meeting then they may not do quantitative easing," Nomura's Kendrick added.

The dollar index was slightly lower on the day at 81.061, having hit a two-month high of 81.241 on Tuesday.

The euro was up 0.3 percent at $1.2735, helped by its gains against the yen. It has rebounded from a two-month low of $1.26610 on Tuesday on expectations that debt-laden Greece could receive aid worth roughly 44 billion euros at one go.

But that cannot happen until international lenders reach a broader agreement on the sustainability of Greece's debt, which is likely to check the euro's gains.

Sterling hit a two-month low against the dollar of $1.5855 after the Bank of England's inflation report painted a gloomy outlook for the UK economy and governor Mervyn King said quantitative easing could still be restarted.

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