FOREX-Yen sinks to lowest since April 2011 as Abe takes power

Wed Dec 26, 2012 1:23am EST

Related Topics

* Abe voted in as prime minister, to select allies for his cabinet

* BOJ minutes show some called for action if econ worsens

* Euro flirts with 16-month high vs yen

* Aussie retraces Monday's one-month low vs greenback

By Lisa Twaronite

TOKYO, Dec 26 (Reuters) - The yen sank to a 20-month low in Asian trading on Wednesday, as Shinzo Abe assumed Japan's helm with a mandate to weaken its currency and push for more drastic monetary and fiscal stimulus.

Overall activity was thin, after most global financial centres were closed for the Christmas holiday. All G10 markets except Japan were closed on Tuesday, and only Japanese and U.S. markets were to open on Wednesday. Hong Kong and Australia also remained closed on Wednesday.

The dollar rose as high as 85.38 yen on the EBS trading platform, its highest since April 2011, breaking through resistance at its 200-week moving average around 84.95 yen. It last stood at 85.32 yen, up about 0.7 percent, with its next resistance seen at the yen's April 2011 nadir of 85.53 yen. Options-related positions were said to lie around 85.50 yen.

Abe, whose party won a landslide victory in a Dec. 16 election, was elected prime minister by parliament's lower house on Wednesday. He is expected to pick a slate of close allies to serve in his government.

On Tuesday, Abe reiterated that he seeks to tame the strong yen to help revive Japan's economy.

"There is no reason to expect the trend to change anytime soon, with no incentive to buy the yen now," said Kimihiko Tomita, head of foreign exchange for State Street Global Markets in Tokyo.

"Of course, on an intraday basis, there could be spells of profit-taking, but overall, there is no compelling reason that would make it necessary to buy the yen," he said.

Abe has also called for aggressive monetary easing by the Bank of Japan combined with massive fiscal spending.

Even before the heightened pressure, minutes of the BOJ's November policy meeting released on Wednesday revealed that some board members considered policy options if the outlook for the economy and prices were to worsen.

One board member even suggested that the BOJ commit to buying assets in an open-ended manner, without setting a strict deadline, until it achieved its 1 percent consumer inflation target.

Ongoing concerns about the U.S. budget impasse continued to underpin the U.S currency.

President Barack Obama may return to Washington from his Hawaiian holiday as early as Wednesday evening to address the unfinished negotiations with Congress, according to an administration official.

The next session of the U.S. Senate was set for Thursday, but the issues presented by "fiscal cliff" of tax hikes and spending cuts scheduled to take effect next year were not on the calendar. The U.S. House of Representatives has nothing on its schedule this week, but its members have been told they could be called back on 48 hours notice, making their Thursday return a theoretical possibility.

The dollar index stood at 79.715, after it rose as high as 79.780 on Tuesday, its loftiest level since Dec. 14.

The euro traded at $1.3179, nearly unchanged from the previous session and below its 7 1/2-month high of $1.33085 hit one week ago.

Against the yen, the euro rose as high as 112.55 yen, approaching its 16-month high of 112.59 yen hit on Dec. 19. It last stood at 112.44 yen.

Technical analysts cited little resistance above last week's high, with the euro's 200-week moving average still far away, around 115.00 yen. The European unit has not closed above that average since late Sept. 2008.

With markets in Australia still closed for the holiday, the Australian dollar did not stray far from recent ranges. It last stood at $1.0362 after falling as low as $1.0357 earlier, matching a one-month low struck on Monday. It traded below the base of its daily Ichimoku cloud at $1.0366, and investors will be watching to see if it closes below that level.

Further support for the Aussie was said to lie around its 200-day moving average at $1.0295 and then at its Nov. 16 low of $1.0287.

FILED UNDER: