* Markets positions for aggressive Bank of Japan action
* Yen to move higher if Bank of Japan seeks unlimited bond
* U.S. consumer sentiment in January hits lowest in over a
* China data softer than expected
By Julie Haviv
NEW YORK, Jan 18 The yen dropped for a second
straight day against the dollar on Friday, trading within
striking distance of a 31-month low as investors positioned for
expected aggressive policy action from the Bank of Japan next
While investors opted to book profits in the euro versus the
yen, the currency shared by 17 counties remained 4.4 percent
higher on the year, the strongest performance of major currency
The dollar has gained 3.7 percent against the yen so far
this year and most strategists believe the U.S. currency is
poised to continue appreciating if the BOJ early next week takes
steps beyond market expectations in an attempt to reverse a
Concerns about global growth weighed on risk appetite after
China, the world's second-largest economy, reported slowing
growth in 2012. Currencies correlated to global growth, such as
the Australian and New Zealand dollars, fell on the data.
Sources familiar with the BOJ's thinking told Reuters the
central bank, under relentless pressure from Prime Minister
Shinzo Abe, will consider making an open-ended commitment to buy
assets until 2 percent inflation is in sight.
Such a plan would exceed market expectations, which have
centered on the BOJ setting a 2 percent inflation target at its
two-day meeting that ends on Tuesday and possibly increasing its
"This is a big deal," said Jens Nordvig, global head of
currency strategy at Nomura Securities in New York.
"But as always from a trading perspective, it matters
greatly what is already priced," he said.
Nomura recently conducted a survey and the results showed
that the inflation target announcement is already widely
expected, but those who were surveyed remained uncertain about
its asset purchase program.
There is a possibility that the BoJ moves to an open-ended
commitment on this front, Nordvig said.
Nomura has become more neutral on the yen after the big
price move already seen.
The dollar and euro's impressive appreciation against the
yen in 2013 follows gains of about 11.3 percent and roughly 14.3
percent, respectively, in the fourth quarter.
The dollar hit a high of 90.18 during the global session,
its highest since June 2010. It last traded up 0.1 percent at
89.94 yen. Strategists cited chart support at 87.77 yen,
the low struck on Wednesday, while reported options barrier at
90.75 yen could act as a near-term resistance.
"A lot is priced in for next week's BOJ meeting. If asset
purchases by the BOJ were unlimited that could lead to
significantly higher levels in dollar/yen and euro/yen levels,"
said Peter Kinsella, currency strategist at Commerzbank.
"Levels past 93-95 yen within the next 2-3 weeks is not
Traders reported strong demand for options betting on
further yen weakness, with one-month dollar/yen implied
volatility - a measure of expected price movement -
rising to its highest since August 2011.
One-month risk reversals showed demand to buy
yen puts, or bets on the yen falling, also rose.
But some analysts said the BOJ could undershoot expectations
and this could see the yen rebound.
The dollar could gain against the euro and riskier
currencies over the next month due to its status as a safe haven
as U.S. politicians debate how to raise the country's borrowing
limit, or debt ceiling.
U.S. consumer sentiment deteriorated for a second straight
month to hit its lowest in over a year in January, with a record
number of consumers citing the recent "fiscal cliff" debate in
Washington, a survey released on Friday showed.
EURO FALLS AS RISK APPETITE ABATES
The euro zone's economic backdrop remains dismal and should
data out of the region continue to show weakness, the European
Central Bank may opt to cut rates in the coming months, a
negative for the euro.
Global growth concerns could also sap demand for the euro.
China's economy grew at its slowest pace in 13 years in
2012, though a year-end spurt supported by infrastructure
spending and a jump in trade signaled that the foundation for
the stable growth path Beijing says is vital for economic reform
may be in sight.
The euro last traded 0.6 percent lower against the yen at
119.48 yen, down from 120.70 hit earlier - its highest
since May 2011.
The euro earlier in the global session climbed to a 20-month
high against the Swiss franc of 1.2568 francs, with analysts
expecting the Swiss currency to remain weak.
It last traded down 0.4 percent at 1.2424 francs.
Against the dollar, the euro retreated from $1.3401, just
shy of an 11-month high of $1.3403 set on Monday. It last traded
at $1.3284, down 0.7 percent on the day, according to