FOREX-Yen softer for now; Nikkei seen calling the shots

Mon May 27, 2013 7:42pm EDT

Related Topics

* Currency markets watching Nikkei for cues

* Yen downside may be limited if Nikkei falls further

* Aussie dollar still struggling, 2012 nadir in focus

By Ian Chua

SYDNEY, May 28 (Reuters) - The yen gave up a bit of ground early in Asia on Tuesday but clung to most of its recent gains with wary investors keeping an eye on the Nikkei as further declines in Tokyo stocks would likely underpin the Japanese currency.

Investors had cut one-way bets against the yen in the past few sessions after a 7.3 percent slide in the Nikkei and subsequent extreme volatility jolted yen-bears to swiftly lock in profits.

That saw both the dollar and euro fall to two-week lows. The greenback was last at 101.15 yen, up a modest 0.2 percent on the day, but still near the low of 100.66 plumbed on Friday.

The euro fetched 130.79 yen, trying to pull up from Thursday's trough around 129.95. Trading overnight was uninspiring with UK and U.S. holidays keeping the major currencies in slim trading ranges.

Growing worries that the Federal Reserve might scale back its massive stimulus programme and more evidence of slower growth in China had given many investors a reality check.

"Looking forward to today, Nikkei movements continue to be the focus," JPMorgan strategists Anna Hibino and Thomas Anthonj wrote in a client note.

"With the Nikkei and USD/JPY maintaining this relationship, if the Nikkei trades sluggishly today, this would likely pull USD/JPY lower as well."

The euro, meanwhile, has been struggling to reclaim $1.3000 given no new flare-up of euro zone concerns. It was little changed at $1.2931, having steadily recovered from this month's low of $1.2796.

Investors have clearly turned bearish on the once high-flying Australian dollar, with the market still betting on yet more interest rate cuts given slower growth in the country's single biggest export market, China.

The Aussie eased 0.1 percent to $0.9626, staying close to the 2012 nadir of $0.9581. A break there would take it back to lows not seen since October 2011.

It has fallen 9 percent from a high of $1.0583 set just last month.

Some analysts suspect the slide in the Aussie is overdone. Analysts at St. George believe the Chinese recovery will be sustained and the notion that the Fed could start unwinding its bond purchases within a few months is premature.

"This would suggest the AUD should not drift too far away from parity for too long," said Janu Chan, an economist at St George.

"Our forecast of $1.02 by end 2013 and $1.00 by end 2014 reflects our view of a later pullback in stimulus from the Federal Reserve, the relative strength of the Australian economy and positive prospects for China."

There is little in the way of market moving economic news out of Asia on Tuesday, leaving the focus squarely on the Nikkei.

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