* Euro skids across the board in initial Cyprus reaction
* Yen gaps higher as speculators caught short; USD follows
* Focus on Cyprus parliament vote, peripheral bond yields
By Lisa Twaronite and Wayne Cole
TOKYO/SYDNEY, March 18 The euro plunged and
traders squeezed the yen sharply higher on Monday in Asia as
news that Cyprus' bailout plan includes taxing depositors was
taken as a dangerous precedent that could ultimately trigger
bank runs elsewhere in the region.
Euro zone finance ministers want to tap Cyprus' savers in
order for the country to receive a 10 billion euro ($13 billion)
bailout, and this decision caused a run on cash after its
announcement on Saturday morning. Cyprus was working on a
last-minute proposal to soften the blow after a parliamentary
vote on the measure was postponed until Monday, a government
"There are unclear points about Cyprus, so that's why
nobody wants to buy the euro right now, at least in the Tokyo
and London session," ahead of the Cyprus vote, said Masashi
Murata, a currency strategist at Brown Brothers Harriman in
The common currency was changing hands at $1.2901,
down 1.3 percent from Friday's North American level after
falling as low as $1.2888 on the EBS trading platform, its
lowest since Dec. 10. Support was said to lie at 200-day moving
average, now at $1.2872.
The euro last bought 122.34 yen, down 1.9
percent. The 55-day moving average provided support during the
yen's correction at the end of last month and a close below the
average, now at 121.69 yen, could herald a deeper correction.
The euro also lost ground on the Swiss franc to 1.2178
francs, from around 1.2275.
The yen shot higher across the board as speculative sellers
were caught badly short of the currency, and had to quickly
unwind carry trade positions.
Borrowing in yen to buy higher yielding assets has been a
heavily-favoured trade in recent weeks on expectations of more
aggressive easing steps from the Bank of Japan.
Japan's parliament on Friday formally approved Haruhiko
Kuroda as the next BOJ governor as well as Kikuo Iwata and
Hiroshi Nakaso as his deputies, putting in place the leadership
to aggressively pursue its 2 percent inflation target.
An improving U.S. economy has also underpinned the greenback
in recent weeks. Data on Friday continued to show growth in U.S.
manufacturing, though U.S. consumer sentiment weakened to its
lowest in over a year and inflation picked up.
"The U.S. economy remains solid," Brown Brothers Harriman's
Murata said. "I don't think dollar-yen will drop a lot, below 93
or 92 yen, and will probably gradually show a recovery today,"
The dollar fell back to 94.80 yen, from 95.38 yen
late on Friday. It dropped to 93.45 yen, its lowest since March
6, moving away from a 3-1/2-year peak of 96.71 struck on March
The Australian dollar lost almost two full yen to a low of
97.74 yen, its lowest since March 8, in volatile early trading
before steadying at 98.06.
The U.S. dollar was up 0.7 percent against a basket of
currencies at 82.792.
Euro zone leaders and Cyprus agreed on Saturday that
depositors should be taxed up to 10 percent - 6.7 percent on
amounts below 100,000 euros and 9.9 percent on figures above
that - to raise 5.8 billion euros so the island country could be
eligible for an international bailout.
Cyprus was discussing with lenders the possibility of
changing the levy to 3.0 percent for deposits below 100,000
euros, and to 12.5 percent for those above that, the source
Taxing depositors would be a radical change from usual
practice, and would give depositors in other debt-ridden
countries an incentive to shift their money to banks in EU
countries with lower financial system risks, such as Germany.
Some strategists expected limited fallout from the move in
the longer term, but nonetheless recognised it as a clear
short-term signal to sell the euro.
"The news on Cyprus may well elicit some negative euro
reaction on the back of fears of capital flight from peripheral
Europe, although if managed properly, it shouldn't spark the
start of a contagious bank run," said Brian Martin, a senior
strategist at ANZ in London.
"We do not think this will cause a sustained run on bank
deposits in the euro area, as Cyprus appears a special case."
Still, for the moment he recommended selling the euro
against the Swiss franc, yen and sterling, and selling bonds
from EU periphery countries.
He noted one early sign that the Cyprus deal was causing
contagion would be a widening in peripheral bond spreads.