FOREX-Yen near 2-1/2-year low, Aussie gains on strong China data

Thu Jan 10, 2013 8:59am IST

* BOJ easing expectations keep hammering yen

* Some market player wary of corrective rebound in yen

* China Dec exports up 14.1%, boosts Aussie/yen to 4-yr high

* Euro near 3-week low, ECB seen holding rates steady

* Yen down 0.2%, Aussie up 0.3% vs USD

By Hideyuki Sano

TOKYO, Jan 10 (Reuters) - The yen was on the defensive near a 2-1/2-year low on Thursday on expectations the Bank of Japan will take fresh measures to boost the economy, while the Australian dollar jumped after strong Chinese trade data.

The euro dipped as traders looked to the European Central Bank's policy meeting later in the day to see a rate cut is in the offing.

The yen lost 0.2 percent to 88.05 yen to the dollar, edging near a 2 1/2-year low of 88.48 yen hit last Friday, and giving up most of its gains earlier this week.

"I just see a tremendous amount of pressure on the yen at the moment. If the previous low is broken, then the next target will be 90," said a trader at a Japanese bank.

Price action could become volatile as the BOJ's Jan. 21-22 policy meeting nears, as seen in the yen's roughly 1.2 percent rebound from that low earlier this week.

"It's about time for a correction to set in after a big fall in the yen. Short-term players will likely take profits as soon as the yen stops falling," said Teppei Ino, currency strategist at the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ.

"But then again, there's also chance that expectations of BOJ easing could keep the yen under pressure until the bank's policy meeting," he added.

The bank is widely expected to heed Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's call for adopting a 2 percent inflation target at its next policy meeting.

Expectations that Abe would push the BOJ to adopt more forceful monetary stimulus measures have driven the yen sharply lower in recent months, boosting the dollar by nearly 12 percent against the yen since early November.

The yen extended its losses against the Australian dollar to hit a four-year low, as the Aussie jumped following a surprisingly strong Chinese trade data. Australia tends to benefit from Chinese demand for raw materials.

The Australian dollar rose to as high as 92.93 yen , its highest since Oct 2008, after data showed Chinese December exports grew 14.1 percent from a year earlier, more than triple the economists' forecast in December. Imports growth was double the market expectations.

Against the U.S. dollar, the Aussie gained 0.3 percent to $1.0540, having hit a three-week high of $1.0554 at one point.

RATE CUT TALK?

Further signs of recovery in China failed to lift the risk-sensitive euro, as traders focused on the ECB meeting.

The central bank is expected to keep interest rates on hold at its first policy meeting of the year on Thursday, but some market players think the bank may cut them some time in coming months and that the bank's chief, Mario Draghi, may drop hints of that in his news conference at 1330 GMT.

"The market has already priced in some chance of Draghi hinting at a rate cut down the road. So if he doesn't, the euro could be bought back," said the Japanese bank trader.

The euro fell 0.15 percent so far on Thursday to $1.3046 , edging closer to a three-week low of $1.2998 hit last Friday.

The British pound was also listless near a six-week low against the dollar hit on Wednesday partly on speculation the Bank of England could go for a surprise easing at its meeting on Thursday, although most analysts expect the bank to stand pat.

The pound dipped 0.1 percent to $1.6010, near Wednesday's low of $1.5992. Sterling has been hit by a string of weak UK economic data, including Tuesday's retail sales data.

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