FOREX-Yen under pressure as Russia-Ukraine concerns ebb; euro softer

Wed Mar 5, 2014 6:42am EST

Related Topics

* Yen extends broad slide, focus shifts to data

* Euro lower against the dollar ahead of ECB meeting

* Overnight euro/dollar implied vols rise

By Anirban Nag

LONDON, March 5 (Reuters) - The safe-haven yen extended losses against the dollar and euro on Wednesday as concern over a Russia-Ukraine standoff eased, allowing investors to focus on a slew of data and central bank meetings.

Markets are keeping an eye on the region after Russia test-fired an intercontinental ballistic missile from a base not far from the east of Ukraine to a range in Kazakhstan.

But with diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis mounting, traders are shifting their sights to a raft of data, including a private-sector survey of the U.S. labour market, growth in the services sector and an important policy meeting of the European Central Bank scheduled for Thursday.

The euro was higher against the yen at 140.50 yen after gaining 0.8 percent on Tuesday. The dollar was up 0.2 percent at 102.40 yen after posting its biggest one-day gain since mid-January a day earlier. The dollar was also up against the Swiss franc at 0.8880 francs.

"While the market remains vulnerable to the game of brinkmanship between the West and Russia over the situation in Ukraine, it seems that they will need a dose of good data to hold up," said Jeremy Stretch, a currency strategist at CIBC World Markets.

Demand for safety faded on Tuesday after Russian President Vladimir Putin played down the prospect of a war in Ukraine, but market players remained on watch as Russian stock markets fell more than 1 percent on Wednesday.

EURO AWAITS ECB

While the euro held its ground against the yen, it shed ground against the dollar, dropping to $1.3715 and pulling back from Friday's two-month high of $1.38255.

Despite better-than-expected retail sales data for January and a survey which showed euro zone private-sector business growing at its fastest pace in over 2 1/2 months in February, investors sold the euro, given the risk that the ECB could loosen policy at Thursday's review.

Inflation is running well below the ECB's target of just under 2 percent, and the central bank is under pressure pull it out of a "danger zone" where the region's fragile recovery could stall.

"I do not think the market has priced in the risk of ECB action fully," CIBC's Stretch added.

Indeed, overnight euro/dollar implied volatility, a gauge of how sharp currency swings will be, jumped to 11.50 percent from around 5 percent at the start of the week.

In the United States, the ISM non-manufacturing purchasing managers index, the private-sector ADP employment report and the Federal Reserve's Beige Book are all likely to offer evidence on the extent to which weather influenced a recent soft patch in economic data.

"We would prefer euro/dollar short positions near $1.3760/70 for perhaps a break down to $1.3680 should U.S. data not be quite as soft as expected," said Chris Turner, head of FX strategy at ING.

The start of China's annual parliament meeting offered no major surprises, and major currencies showed little reaction.

China announced on Wednesday it would maintain its economic growth target for 2014 at about 7.5 percent, signalling that its policy focus would be slanted in favour of reforms and rebalancing the economy.

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