FOREX-Euro rebounds but currency war talk could curb gains

Mon Feb 11, 2013 10:09am EST

Related Topics

* Euro rises vs dollar and crosses in choppy trade

* But euro vulnerable to "currency war" talk

* Concerns about Cyprus, Spain, Italy also weigh on euro

* Investors eye BOJ, euro zone GDP and G20 meetings later in week

By Julie Haviv

NEW YORK, Feb 11 (Reuters) - The euro gained against the dollar and yen on Monday after notching three straight days of hefty losses, but the currency remained susceptible to political and fiscal uncertainty in the euro zone as well as unease about its gains last month.

The euro could turn lower before a meeting of the Eurogroup of euro zone finance ministers on Monday and a G20 meeting later in the week, both of which should highlight tensions over whether some countries are deliberately trying to weaken their currencies.

The Group of Seven nations are considering issuing a statement this week reaffirming their commitment to "market-determined" exchange rates in response to heating rhetoric about a currency war, two G20 officials said on Monday.

"The G20 meeting in Moscow this week seems certain to focus on 'currency wars' but beyond a bland call for countries not to engage in competitive devaluations it's hard to see what concrete steps can be taken at this stage," said Kit Juckes, fx strategist at Societe Generale in London.

"The 'currency war' is a product of easy Fed policy, and the U.S. is winning comfortably," he said. "Japan's response can't be criticised in the context of the deflation they have been stuck in, and Europe cannot agree on a common position."

French Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici said on Monday that euro zone countries need closer cooperation on exchange rate policy and the bloc's finance ministers would discuss the issue when they meet.

Corporates were cited as main buyers of the euro on crosses such as against the yen and sterling, helping the euro recover from a session low against the dollar of $1.3324 earlier on Monday, the lowest since Jan. 24.

The euro last traded up 0.2 percent at $1.3384, with Middle East investors cited as main buyers. Morgan Stanley strategists said the euro could pull back towards $1.3260, its 50-day moving average.

Against the yen, the euro rose 0.9 percent to 124.98 yen, pulling away from Friday's one-week low of 123.43, but still some way off the 34-month high of 127.71 yen hit on Feb. 6.

"While the speed of the euro recovery was probably overdone, this correction down is also likely running out of steam. There are however risks with the Italian elections (and) Cyprus and we could see some pullback today with the Eurogroup meeting," said Ulrich Leuchtmann, head of FX research at Commerzbank.

Concerns about the terms of a bailout for Cyprus, which will be high on the Eurogroup's agenda, would cap the euro's gains, analysts said.

There are also growing worries about a political scandal in Spain, and about Italy in the run-up to the Feb. 24-25 election.

"Nevertheless, I think these risks are not systemic and therefore only have a limited effect on the euro exchange rate," Leuchtmann said, predicting the euro to end this week slightly above $1.3500.

The euro sold off last week after European Central Bank President Mario Draghi kept alive expectations of rate cuts and said the bank would monitor the economic impact of the strengthening currency.

"The pace of the euro's gains in January made me feel uncomfortable, it was too far, too fast...if news from Cyprus, Spain and Italy is not good we could see $1.30 again," said Jane Foley, senior currency strategist at Rabobank.

The euro appreciated 2.9 percent against the dollar in January, its best monthly performance since Oct. 2011. So far this month, however, the euro has depreciated 1.4 percent.

BANK OF JAPAN

Much of Asia was shut for the Lunar New Year holidays keeping volumes on the lower side. Traders braced for more volatility later in the week with U.S. retail sales, European growth data, the G20 meeting in Moscow and a Bank of Japan policy decision.

The BOJ is expected to keep monetary policy steady, particularly as Japanese authorities have come in for criticism from euro zone politicians for their aggressive policy actions that resulted in a weaker yen.

The dollar last traded up 0.8 percent at 93.42 yen , but below a 33-month high of 94.06 yen hit Wednesday.

In the past few months, the yen has slumped as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe put intense pressure on the central bank to take aggressive easing measures to revive the economy.

The yen's weakness is likely to persist as it is widely expected the new BOJ chief, who will take over next month, is likely to be someone who is amenable to Abe's policy stance.

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