GLOBAL MARKETS-Yen firms as risk assets brace for another rout

Mon Apr 15, 2013 7:58pm EDT

* Yen firms vs dollar, euro

* Risker assets such as stocks, commodities set to extend their losses

* Assets that have rallied recently remain pressured

By Chikako Mogi

TOKYO, April 16 (Reuters) - The yen firmed against the dollar and the euro early in Asia on Tuesday while riskier markets were likely to encounter another bout of selling after investors dumped commodities and stocks overnight on concerns over slowing growth in China and the U.S.

The dollar fell to a low of 95.67 yen and the euro also hit a low of 125 yen earlier but the dollar managed to recoup some of its losses and was last at 97 yen, while the euro also recovered to 126.55 yen.

"It seems investors will remain ready to sell any risk assets this session, the way markets tumbled broadly. Assets with large positions being built up will be squeezed out," said Hiroshi Maeba, head of FX trading Japan for UBS in Tokyo, noting that equities had been rallying recently on growth optimism.

"In this light, the yen may firm a bit more given the way the currency's short positions had built up," he said, adding that a temporary jump to the 94 level against the dollar could be possible in volatile conditions.

A U.S. regional manufacturing report on Monday showed the pace of growth slowed, the latest evidence suggesting the world's biggest economy lost some steam heading into the second quarter. The dour U.S. report followed data that showed the Chinese economy unexpectedly stumbled in the first three months of 2013.

The MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan is likely to extend losses after falling 0.9 percent on Monday, led by a plunge in its materials sector .

Japan's Nikkei average is expected to open sharply lower and may test the key 13,000 mark following the fall in Wall Street on growth worries.

The dismal global growth data weighed on gold, which dragged other metals lower as its price plunged to a more than two-year low, with spot gold shedding as much as 9 percent to as low as $1,336.04 an ounce.

The price of gold bullion tumbled another $125 per ounce in its biggest-ever daily loss, as investors liquidated bullish bets en masse after months of disappointment over the performance of the precious metal. In percentage terms, Monday's 9 percent loss would be the biggest since 1983.

Brent crude fell towards $100 a barrel, while on Wall Street stocks dropped more than 2 percent for the worst day since Nov. 7 for the Standard & Poor's 500 index. Silver lost 12 percent at $22.71 an ounce, having fallen as low as $22.56.

Two simultaneous explosions ripped through the crowd at the finish line of the Boston Marathon on Monday, killing two people and injuring dozens. U.S. stocks extended their losses as the news compounded already jittery markets.