April 10, 2013 / 7:56 PM / 4 years ago

FOREX-Dollar hits 4-year high vs yen, close to 100-yen mark

* Policymakers eyed ending bond-buys this year -Fed minutes
    * Euro briefly supported by talk of Japanese portfolio flows
    * Options market shows neutral dollar and yen risk reversals
    * U.S. stocks hit record high

    By Julie Haviv
    NEW YORK, April 10 (Reuters) - The dollar rose to a
four-year high against the yen on Wednesday, edging closer to
the key 100-yen mark after minutes of the U.S. Federal Reserve's
March meeting raised expectations it will finish its bond-buying
spree by the end of the year.
    The U.S. central bank's stance contrasts starkly with
aggressive monetary easing steps from the Bank of Japan, which
last week pledged to pump about $1.4 trillion into the economy
in less than two years in a bid to beat decades-long deflation.
    According to the Fed minutes, which were released hours
ahead of schedule, a few Fed policymakers expected to taper the
pace of asset purchases by mid-year and end them later this
year, while several others expected to slow the pace a bit later
and halt the quantitative easing program by year-end.
 
    "Once again, the minutes have sounded a slightly more
hawkish tone and that's really what's benefiting dollar/yen,"
said Omer Esiner, chief market analyst at Commonwealth Foreign
Exchange in Washington.
    The Fed's quantitative easing program is tantamount to
printing money and dilutes the value of the dollar. The March
minutes, however, may not reflect the current mindset of Fed
officials in the aftermath of data last week showing tepid jobs
growth last month.
    The Fed has said it would continue its bond-buying program
until the labor market improves substantially. Weekly U.S.
jobless claims data to be released on Thursday will provide
another glimpse into the sector.
    After breaking technical resistance at 99.73 yen - which was
a 50 percent retracement of the dollar's drop from its June 2007
high of 124.14 yen to a record low of 75.311 yen set in October
2011 - the dollar rose to a session high of 99.87 yen,
its highest level since April 2009.
    The dollar last traded at 99.84 yen, up 0.8 percent on the
day, according to Reuters data.
    In the options market, demand for protection against the
dollar's decline has dissipated, with three-month risk-reversals
 trading close to neutral.
    Demand had been biased for dollar puts, the right to sell
dollars, throughout March, but last week's BoJ announcement has
essentially served to erase the need for that protection.
    The yen temporarily recouped losses after BoJ Governor
Haruhiko Kuroda said the bank has taken all necessary steps for
now in its easing program, but the bounce was short-lived.
    Kuroda also said the bank was resolved to keep printing
money for as long as needed to achieve 2 percent inflation,
signaling his readiness to offer further stimulus or maintain an
ultra-easy policy beyond two years if meeting the target by then
proves difficult. 
    "He is saying 'for now' that tells me he will opt for
further easing in the future," said Neil Jones, head of hedge
fund FX sales at Mizuho Corporate Bank in London. Jones said the
BOJ's attempt to reach 2 percent inflation would imply
dollar/yen trading at 110.00.
    Traders said hefty options barriers around 100 yen could
slow the dollar's rise, but an eventual break above that level
looked inevitable.
    The euro last traded 0.6 percent higher at 130.34 yen
, having risen as high as 130.50 yen on Reuters data,
its strongest level since January 2010.
    Against the dollar, the euro was at $1.3058, down 0.2
percent on the day, as investors opted to book profits after it 
hit a one-month peak of $1.3121.
    In recent days, the euro has received some support from
market speculation that Japanese investors looking for higher
returns may opt for euro zone assets.
    Expectations of Japanese buying have pushed French, Dutch,
Belgian and Austrian bond yields to record lows.
    Chinese import data buoyed the Australian dollar, while
stock markets around the world rallied, with the S&P 500 
breaking its previous record intraday high, set on Oct. 11,
2007. The Dow hit another intraday milestone, also
rising to a record high.

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