* U.S. budget talks main focus in year-end trades
* Euro dips, some see its recent rise as overdone
* Yen steadies after hitting two-year lows, more declines
By Wanfeng Zhou
NEW YORK, Dec 28 The dollar edged up to a
two-week high against major currencies on Friday as uncertainty
about fiscal talks in Washington to avert tax hikes and spending
cuts next year drove investors to the relative safety of the
President Barack Obama was not planning to make a new offer
at a White House meeting with congressional leaders on Friday to
avert the so-called "fiscal cliff" that looms on Jan. 1, a
source familiar with the meeting said.
"Headline risk is likely to remain a driver of FX markets in
the near term," said Eric Theoret, FX strategist at Scotia
Capital in Toronto.
An agreement on the U.S. budget would be viewed as positive
for riskier currencies such as the euro and Australian dollar,
while a deadlock is deemed positive for the safe-haven and
highly liquid dollar.
Conflicting developments in Washington over the budget
debate have sparked volatility in the dollar. On Thursday, the
dollar rose after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid warned that
the United States appears to be headed over the "fiscal cliff."
But it gave up gains on news of a House of Representatives
session on Sunday.
With time running short, lawmakers may opt to allow the
higher taxes and across-the-board spending cuts to take effect
and attempt to pass a retroactive fix soon after the new year.
Standard & Poor's said an impasse on the cliff would not have an
impact on the sovereign rating of the United States.
The dollar hit a two-week high against a basket of
currencies at 79.930. It was last up 0.1 percent at 79.665
The euro slipped 0.1 percent to $1.3221, having hit a
session low of $1.3164 on Reuters data after triggering
stop-loss sell orders around $1.3170. On the week, the euro
gained 0.3 percent versus the dollar, its third straight week of
The euro has made rapid strides since mid-November, gaining
5 percent in a month to hit an 8-1/2-month high of $1.3308 on
Dec. 19 as worries about the euro zone debt crisis ebbed.
"Prices have become so overbought that there was little
enthusiasm to rally further. Once the selling began, it quickly
triggered stops across the board, taking euro/dollar below the
$1.3200 level," said Boris Schlossberg, managing director of FX
strategy, at BK Asset Management in New York.
Although analysts partly attributed the euro's drop to
year-end dollar demand and thin liquidity, they said unwinding
of long euro positions also weighed on the currency.
"There is still a good chunk of skepticism among market
participants about the euro being significantly higher than the
$1.32-$1.33 level," said Ulrich Leuchtmann, head of FX research
"Speculative market participants are not very happy with
these levels and look at it as a good opportunity to sell the
euro, which is leading to the rapid drop in euro/dollar."
The euro fell 0.2 percent at 113.78 yen, having
earlier hit a 17-month high.
The dollar was steady against the yen at 86.06 yen,
having earlier risen to 86.63 yen, its strongest since August
2010. Traders reported options barriers at 86.75 and 87.00 yen.
Expectations the new Japanese government of Premier Shinzo
Abe will push for further easing in monetary policy have weighed
heavily on the yen and analysts say it could fall further. The
yen has hit more than two-year lows against the dollar for three
The dollar has gained 12 percent against the yen in 2012,
putting it on track for its biggest annual percentage drop since
The dollar looked set to end the week above its 200-week
moving average, now around 84.95 yen, for the first time since
late December 2007, a technical signal indicating further gains.
On the week, the dollar gained about 2 percent versus the
yen, its seventh straight week of gains.
Jens Nordvig, global head of G10 strategy at Nomura
Securities in New York, said he expects the Bank of Japan to
move toward a 2 percent inflation target at the January meeting
and plans for a foreign bond buying program to be announced in
the second quarter.
"Mr. Abe has been consistent in signaling an aggressive push
toward monetary easing. Importantly, this push is likely to be
front loaded," he wrote to clients. Nomura forecasts the dollar
will rise to 90 yen by the end of the second quarter, up from a
previous target of 85 yen.