FOREX-Euro at record low vs Swiss franc on Greek jitters

Mon Jun 13, 2011 6:36am EDT

Related Topics

* Euro under pressure as Greek debt saga rolls on

* Hits record low vs Swiss franc EURCHF=

* Option expiries for euro at $1.43 may check losses

(adds details, updates prices)

By Anirban Nag

LONDON, June 13 (Reuters) - The euro hit a lifetime low against the safe-haven Swiss franc and slipped versus the dollar, as investors worried at policymakers' struggles over the Greek debt crisis cut their exposure to the common currency.

Volumes were on the lower side with many centres in Europe closed for a holiday. The cost of insuring peripheral euro zone bonds against default hit a record high, while a general lack of appetite towards riskier assets also pushed the euro lower.

The euro shed 0.6 percent against the Swiss franc to trade at 1.2025 francs, having fallen to as low as 1.20 EURCHF=. Traders said stop-loss orders were triggered after the euro fell through a previous low of 1.2049, and system-related selling pushed it towards 1.2000 francs.

Market participants cited large option structures at that level, adding, a break below 1.20 francs could trigger even more euro selling. Its sharp losses against the franc saw the common currency lose ground against the dollar.

The euro EUR= was flat at $1.4350, off a session high of $1.4369, as a bout of short covering seen in Asia ran out of steam. Traders cited option expiries at $1.43 that could check losses.

It is also likely to struggle to get past $1.44, traders said. Among the resistance levels are the 55-day moving average at $1.4398 and a concentration of former chart support around $1.4430/50, which includes previous intraday peaks in May and a 38.2 percent retracement of the May-to-June rise.

"What the euro needs is a resolution to the Greek crisis and the politicians and the central bankers do not appear to be close to finding one," said Kit Juckes, currency strategist at Societe Generale. "That uncertainty is weighing on the euro and I expect it to be stuck in a $1.40-$1.47 range."

European policymakers appeared deadlocked on how private investors could be involved in some form of restructuring of Greek debt. The European Central Bank is opposed to German proposals for a bond swap, arguing that it would trigger market turmoil. And Bundesbank head Jens Weidmann in comments released at the weekend said he was against extending the maturities of Greek bonds held by the ECB in any "soft" restructuring.

German and French banks were leaning towards contributing to a Greek rescue, even as it remained unclear how they could do so without triggering a default or credit default swap contracts. [ID:nLDE75A065]

Investors also see less risk of repeated euro zone rate hikes in the months ahead. Even as ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet signalled a rate hike is on the way in July, the ECB left inflation forecasts for 2012 little changed, prompting traders to slash expectations for higher policy rates.

As such, the euro's uncertain outlook saw implied volatilities rise with risk reversals also widening, suggesting more downside risks for the single currency.

One-month EUR1MO= implied vols were trading around 12.15 percent, up from 11.05 at Friday's European open. The one-month 25-delta risk reversals EUR1MRR=ICAP were at around 2.00 in favour of euro puts compared to 1.75 Friday.

SAFE HAVEN FLOWS

The euro's woes have been compounded by a drop in global stocks that has prompted some market players to unwind carry trades funded with the U.S. dollar, the yen and the Swiss franc.

Forex analysts at Citigroup warned that investors appear overly optimistic that central banks would provide more support if stocks and other risky assets fell sharply.

The Federal Reserve will have a high hurdle for more quantitative easing, fiscal policy is set to tighten in the United States, and emerging market central banks are lifting rates just as many commodity and stock markets are already richly valued, Citi said.

"This time the assumed policy response may be much more limited than in the last two years, and probably less effective," said Steven Englander, head of G10 FX strategy at Citi.

The rush towards safe-haven assets boosted the Swiss franc and kept the dollar pinned near record lows hit last week. The dollar was last down 0.7 percent at 0.8374 CHF=.

"The Swiss franc remains the global barometer for risk and the fresh euro zone jitters have given renewed confidence to investors to push it higher," said Lena Komileva, head of G-10 currency strategy at Brown Brothers Harriman.

The Swiss National Bank meets this week for a rate decision, and is unlikely to signal any risk of intervention to cap the franc's strength.

The New Zealand dollar tumbled after a series of powerful earthquakes shook Christchurch, four months after the city was badly damaged by a 6.3 magnitude quake. The kiwi dropped 1.2 percent to trade at $0.8115 NZD=D4. (editing by Stephen Nisbet)

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