SYDNEY The yen's rebound came to an abrupt halt on Thursday with investors wary about cutting bearish bets further amid expectations the Bank of Japan will come under renewed pressure to ease policy.
Risk sentiment took something of a hit early when Apple (AAPL.O) disappointed the Street, sending its shares down 10 percent and hurting stock futures. High beta currencies such as the Australian dollar ticked down on the news, though the impact across the forex market was limited as yet.
Markets are now waiting for fresh cues including Japan's trade numbers for December due at 2350 GMT and HSBC's flash report on China's manufacturing sector at 0145 GMT.
For its part, the U.S. dollar did climb back to 88.58 yen from a one-week trough of 88.06. On Monday, the greenback rose to a 2-1/2 year high of 90.25.
In a similar move, the euro was back near 118.00 yen, having slid to a one-week low of 117.06. It was still within reach of a 20-month high of 120.73.
Investors had reduced short yen positions earlier this week after the BOJ was deemed to have disappointed by not immediately upsizing its asset-purchasing program. This was despite the BOJ delivering its boldest policy yet to snap the economy out of years of stagnation.
But yen bears have not given up, suspecting that retiring BOJ Governor Masaaki Shirakawa will soon be replaced with a much more dovish governor, who could then bring forward any easing.
So far the yen's rebound has proved shallow and while some traders expect the correction may not be over yet, most are of the view that dollar/yen will continue to climb over time.
"Dollar/yen looks vulnerable in the short-term, although its longer-term outlook is still for an attack on 100 over the coming year," said Steven Barrow, an analyst at Standard Bank.
With the yen taking center stage this week, the other currencies were mostly sidelined. The euro appeared to have carved out a slim $1.3250/1.3400 trading range since its last burst higher on January 10. It last stood at $1.3315.
Traders, though, expect the euro can still outperform the dollar given the European Central Bank's more upbeat outlook for the euro zone compared with the Federal Reserve's cautious view on the U.S. economy.
ECB President Mario Draghi on Tuesday underscored that optimism, saying the euro zone can begin 2013 with more confidence than last year. But he warned it was up to governments to carry the bloc forward with reforms.
Among commodity currencies, the major mover was the Canadian dollar which slumped after the Bank of Canada pushed back the timing of any interest rate hike due in part to excess capacity in the economy and soft inflation.
That saw the U.S. dollar rise to a two-month high of C$1.0005. It was last at C$0.9995. The Aussie strongly outperformed its Canadian counterpart, scaling a 5-1/2 month high of C$1.0547. The New Zealand dollar surged to its highest since 2007.
"We see further upside risks for AUD/CAD above $1.0600 and NZD/CAD above $0.8400. At the same time, our preference is to sell USD/CAD on rallies above parity, with $1.0050 the first notable resistance level," said Vassili Serebriakov, strategist at BNP Paribas.
Generally, demand for risk assets should stay buoyant with Europe looking better and the immediate threat of the U.S. government reaching its debt ceiling removed for now.
The U.S. House of Representatives passed a Republican plan to allow the federal government to keep borrowing money through mid-May, clearing it for fast enactment after the top Senate Democrat and White House endorsed it.
(Editing by Wayne Cole)