FOREX-Aussie slides against dollar, eyes on ECB speakers

Tue May 20, 2014 8:11am EDT

* Aussie dollar hit by cbank comments, iron ore slide

* Yen helped by dwindling chance of near-term BOJ easing

* ECB easing expectations, election jitters hurt euro (Updates prices, quotes)

By Patrick Graham

LONDON, May 20 (Reuters) - The Australian dollar was the main mover on major currency markets on Tuesday, falling 0.8 percent on the back of a slide in prices of iron ore, the country's biggest export earner.

Other majors were back in tight ranges, although some players said the euro was again looking shaky after two weeks of hints of more monetary easing by the European Central Bank which have shaken bets the single currency would top $1.40.

The Aussie has recovered solidly from lows reached in late January but worries over the pace of growth in China continue to weigh broadly on its outlook and Reserve Bank deputy governor Guy Debelle said potentially slower capital inflows to Australia pointed to more weakness.

More broadly, some currency analysts have seen signs in the past few sessions of a shift by investors towards more conservative plays, moving out of those currencies like the euro and Aussie which investors have used to gain extra yield in recent months.

"There are signs out there which to me look horribly familiar to for example 2007," said Simon Derrick, head of currency research at Bank of New York-Mellon in London.

"The U.S. and Japanese equity markets are struggling now and that would suggest to me that the upward momentum is beginning to dry up. In that context the temptation is to take money off the table."

He pointed to a number of catalysts overnight for the Aussie's slide to 92.60, including Debelle's comments and the concerns over iron ore receipts. The commodity dropped to a 2-1/2-year low of $98.50 a tonne .IO62-CNI=SI for the first time in more than two years, having been at $135 in January.

There had been hopes on Monday of a breakout higher for the yen after it pushed through perceived important resistance against the dollar around 101.20 yen per dollar. But price action on the Japanese currency, the euro and sterling - the latter after a jump in response to slightly higher than expected inflation - all calmed in morning trade in Europe.

"The euro began to move a bit this morning but we have settled back into the ranges now. The same goes for the yen," said Jane Foley, a strategist with Rabobank in London.

"The market just doesn't quite seem to have the enthusiasm to follow through on any of these moves. For the yen, we have had some better data and the BoJ will stick to its upbeat message this week so that may be supportive."

The dollar traded at 101.36 yen, a day after falling to 101.10 yen, its lowest level since early February. Against the euro, it gained less than 0.1 percent.

ECB CUT

The euro could face some pressure ahead of potentially destabilising European Parliament elections later this week, where votes for anti-austerity, eurosceptic parties look set to increase.

Yields on Italian and Spanish government bonds rose on Monday, as investors, concerned that a rise in eurosceptic support could thwart reform efforts, took profits on recent price gains.

Yields were slightly lower on Tuesday but any broader slackening off of interest in the periphery would be a bearish sign for the euro.

"If the market starts to say that it has now filled its boots with the rally in peripheral debt and it might be time to back off, then that will certainly be a sign for the euro," said Foley.

In general, the jury is very much out on the fate of the single currency ahead of next month's European Central Bank meeting. Markets now firmly expect a cut in interest rates, but it remains to be seen whether that will be enough to counter the picture of positive capital flows that have kept the euro surprising on the upside against the dollar this year.

Much will depend on what other kinds of action, if any, the ECB takes or hints at. In that light there are several more speeches due from bank officials on Tuesday.

The BOJ is widely expected to keep its policy unchanged at a two-day policy meeting starting on Tuesday, with the market's attention focussed instead on Governor Haruhiko Kuroda's news conference.

"If Kuroda makes dovish comments tomorrow, then the dollar/yen may manage to stay above the 200-day average," said Osamu Takashima, head of FX strategy at Citigroup Securities in Tokyo.

"But if he intentionally stresses his optimistic economic views, markets will take it as a sign he accepts a higher yen and a fall in stocks." (Additional reporting by Shinichi Saoshiro and Hideyuki Sano; Editing by Susan Fenton and Susan Thomas)

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