Euro still looking for inspiration, yen firm

SYDNEY Thu Jan 17, 2013 4:12am IST

Japanese 10,000 yen bank notes and coins are displayed March 3, 2006. REUTERS/Toshiyuki Aizawa

Japanese 10,000 yen bank notes and coins are displayed March 3, 2006.

Credit: Reuters/Toshiyuki Aizawa

SYDNEY (Reuters) - The euro struggled to regain its momentum on Thursday even after a top European central banker sounded relaxed about its recent run higher, while the yen hovered at one-week highs, still underpinned by a wave of short-covering.

European Central Bank policymaker Ewald Nowotny said on Wednesday the exchange rate was "not a matter of major concern". That contrasted with comments from Eurogroup Chairman Jean-Claude Juncker that the euro was "dangerously high".

The euro blipped up from a low of $1.3257 following Nowotny's comments, but remained some way off an 11-month high of $1.3404 set on Monday. It last traded at $1.3286.

Investors had favored the euro over the U.S. dollar partly because of the ECB's relatively more upbeat view for the euro zone, compared with the Federal Reserve's sober assessment of the U.S. economy.

"We continue to think any dips in EURUSD provide buying opportunities," said Vassili Serebriakov, strategist at BNP Paribas.

"In our view the euro also remains attractive on the crosses, and we are holding long EURCHF and EURSEK trade recommendations."

Investors have also become cautious about the one-way bearish trade on the yen thanks to recent comments from Japan's Economics Minister about excessive weakness in the currency.

The yen has since climbed from a 2-1/2 year trough against the dollar and a 20-month low versus the euro. The dollar bought 88.42 yen, off the peak of 89.67, while the single currency fetched 117.48, down from 120.13 set Monday.

Investors had put on large bets against the yen as the new Japanese government heaped pressure on the central bank to tackle deflation, calling for a 2 percent inflation target.

The Bank of Japan is widely expected to agree to such a target at its policy meeting on January 21-22, although some traders said there could be selling in dollar/yen afterwards, based on "buy the rumor, sell the fact."

Against commodity currencies, the dollar lost a bit of ground, allowing the Australian dollar to drift up to $1.0571, nearing the 4-month high around $1.0600 set last week.

All eyes are on Australian employment numbers due at 0030 GMT. Forecasts centered on no jobs growth and a higher unemployment rate of 5.4 percent.

Any unexpected weakness in the report could see markets price in a bigger chance of an interest rate cut next month, a move that could possibly see the Aussie dollar slip.

In the United States, housing data and a report on factory activity in the U.S. mid-Atlantic region will be on offer.

(Editing by Wayne Cole)

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