FOREX-Yen falls on monetary easing expectations, Abe comments
* Yen weakness intact, markets await news on next BOJ governor * PM Abe says buying foreign bonds an option for Japan * Japan earlier skirted G20 criticism over weak yen * ECB chief Mario Draghi to speak at 1430 GMT By Anooja Debnath LONDON, Feb 18 (Reuters) - The yen fell towards a 33-month low against the dollar on Monday after Japan's prime minister signalled no change to the country's ultra-loose monetary policy, which its G20 peers refrained from criticising. The dollar has risen around 20 percent against the yen since mid-November, when prospects of a new government sparked talk of aggressive monetary easing. The yen was weighed down as Shinzo Abe said buying foreign bonds was an option for the central bank. But strategists said while the yen was likely to continue weakening, its fall could lose momentum as investors became wary of betting on further yen weakness until there was more clarity on the next Bank of Japan governor. The dollar rose 0.5 percent to 93.98 yen, recovering from a low of 92.20 hit on Friday and within reach of a 33-month peak around 94.47 set a week ago. Traders said it may run into selling ahead of a reported option barrier at 94.50 yen. The euro was up 0.3 percent at 125.38 yen, roughly midway between Friday's two-week low of 122.90 and a 34-month high of 127.71 yen hit earlier this month. "The (G20) communiqué did not explicitly single out Japan which should be relatively positive for dollar/yen in the short term. The obvious event risk is who Abe picks to head the BOJ and we do not have a time line for this either," said Saeed Amen, currency strategist at Nomura. "You are likely to see some consolidation in dollar/yen, the big unknown is who will get appointed as the new BOJ Governor so it is difficult to put on massive positions beforehand." Volumes were expected to be thin on Monday, however, with U.S. markets closed for President's Day. Citi have added a new long dollar/yen spot position to their leveraged trade ideas portfolio and are targeting 95.70 yen with a stop loss at 92.55 yen, they said in a note to clients. Abe's choice for BOJ governor is expected to be announced in coming days. While some expect Asian Development Bank head Haruhiko Kuroda to be the next chief, sources told Reuters that former top financial bureaucrat, Toshiro Muto, who is seen as less radical than other candidates, was the front-runner. Strategists said Muto's appointment could be positive for the yen in the near term, although even under him relatively aggressive monetary policy would still be likely. "The G20 has not clarified much at all and the yen will continue to weaken on pressure from the government on the Bank of Japan to be more accommodative," said Jane Foley, senior currency strategist at Rabobank. DRAGHI SPEECH Against the yen the euro has gained more than 9.5 percent this year, causing some European policymakers to voice concern about its steep ascent. But European Central Bank policymaker Ewald Nowotny said on Monday the euro was moving within standard ranges and the euro's exchange rate should not be dramatised. Markets will now focus on comments later from ECB president Mario Draghi who is due to testify to the European Parliament at 1430 GMT. Against the dollar, the euro edged down 0.1 percent to $1.3353 but remained above chart support around $1.3310, the 38.2 percent retracement level of its Nov-Feb rally. The euro was expected to stay vulnerable after last week's data revealed a deeper-than-expected recession in the euro zone. It could also encounter more selling pressure before the Feb 24-25 Italian election due to worries it may result in a fragmented parliament and hamper future reform efforts. The dollar rose to a 6-week high against a basket of currencies, with its index hitting 80.727, before dipping back to last trade flat at 80.553.