* Yen rises from lows as investors take profits
* New York trade quiet amid major snowstorm
* Fed Plosser says central bank faces challenges
* Euro extends slide after second-half rally
By Julie Haviv
NEW YORK, Jan 3 The yen bounced from a five-year
low versus the dollar on Friday as investors shunned risk and
opted to book profits, but a major snowstorm blanketing the
Northeast of the United States kept trade thin.
A heavy snowstorm and dangerously cold conditions gripped
the northeastern United States, delaying flights, paralyzing
road travel and closing schools and government offices across
the region. Governors of New York and New Jersey
declared states of emergency.
"You have a holiday week, which is always going to be pretty
light on volume and with most of the Northeast digging itself
out of the snowstorm, that has made activity especially light,
even for a holiday week," said Omer Esiner, chief market analyst
at Commonwealth Foreign Exchange in Washington D.C.
The dollar fell as low as 104.05 yen and last traded 0.3
percent lower at 104.42 yen, down from a five-year high
of 105.44 yen set on Thursday. Japanese market players are out
for New Year holidays until next week.
Asian stock markets were under water after a sudden reversal
in some very popular trades sparked a bout of global risk
aversion. Investors tend to flock to the yen in
times of market stress.
"The rebound in the yen is carryover from yesterday's
sell-off in equities and we also saw U.S. bond yields pull back
from the higher end of their ranges," Commonwealth's Esiner
said. "Both of those factors provided investors an excuse to
book some profit on the yen's decline."
"With U.S. 10-year Treasury yields back at 3 percent, we
have already seen the yen pare some of its overnight gains and
it is trading well off its overnight highs," he said.
The dollar index, which tracks the greenback against six
major currencies, was up 0.1 percent at 80.718, having
hit a two-week high on Thursday as a slew of generally positive
U.S. economic data reinforced expectations the Federal Reserve
will continue to move away from its bond purchases.
A measure of future U.S. economic growth rose last week to
its strongest since April 2010, while the annualized growth rate
stayed steady, a research group said.
The euro, the top-performing major currency of 2013, shed
0.8 percent to 142.08 yen, extending losses in the
wake of its 1.2 percent slide the previous day. The euro has
retreated from a five-year peak of 145.67 yen set last Friday.
"January is a bit of a messy month for foreign exchange,"
said Simon Smith, head of research at FxPro. "Volumes are still
thin ... things are very much driven by flows.
"I don't think the yen is a one-way bet in 2014. The easy
wins have been had. Always the most run-over people in the
markets are yen bears."
Smith expects dollar/yen to end the year at 109 yen per
Betting on the dollar against the yen has been a big trade
for hedge funds and other investors over the past year, who see
the Bank of Japan's ultra-loose monetary policy and potential
for more stimulus this year as one of the clearer themes in
tricky currency markets.
Looking ahead, next week will include the release of the
minutes from the Federal Reserve's December meeting and key U.S.
labor market data.
The Fed's minutes on Wednesday will be closely watched for
signs over how far the Fed may further reduce its bond-buying
program. Last month the central bank said it would cut the
mortgage-backed securities and Treasuries purchases by $10
billion to $75 billion a month.
The Fed faces "immense" challenges now that it has reduced
bond-buying, and needs to be cognizant of a rapid rise in future
inflation, Philadelphia Fed President Charles Plosser, a voter
on monetary policy this year, said on Friday.
Meanwhile, the euro - whose second-half rally was driven by
factors such as euro zone banks repatriating funds to shore up
their capital bases and repaying cheap loans to the European
Central Bank - has retreated from a two-year high of $1.3892
touched last Friday.
The euro hit a four-week low against the dollar of $1.3592
and was last at $1.3598, down 0.5 percent on the day,
according to Reuters data.