March 11, 2014 / 6:15 AM / 4 years ago

FOREX-Yen trapped as Bank of Japan stays the course

* BOJ holds policy steady, downgrades view of exports

* Euro shows resilience even as Ukraine tensions continue

* New Zealand dollar hits post-float high vs currency basket

By Lisa Twaronite

TOKYO, March 11 (Reuters) - The yen remained trapped in narrow ranges in Asian trade on Tuesday after the Bank of Japan stood pat and gave no indication that further easing steps were in the cards yet.

The BOJ maintained its massive monetary stimulus as widely expected, and stuck to its view that economic growth and consumer price increases remain on track. It downgraded its view of exports but upgraded its view of capital expenditure and industrial production.

The BOJ’s next meeting on April 30 comes after the implementation of a sales tax increase scheduled for April 1. The central bank will also release its semiannual economic outlook then, which investors say could give it an opportunity to alter its outlook and justify a policy move.

“In order to ease, they have to change their way of looking at the economy, and currently they think the economy looks okay, so they don’t feel they need to do anything at all,” said Tadashi Matsukawa, head of Japan fixed income at PineBridge Investments.

“But the positive impact of BOJ easing has already started to taper off, even during the October-December period,” Matsukawa said.

Data on Monday underscored the economic recovery remains fragile. Japan posted a record current account deficit in January, and its fourth-quarter gross domestic product growth was revised down, suggesting the effects of the BOJ’s easing might have already begun to wane.

A Reuters poll last month showed economists expect the BOJ to ease policy further around the middle of the year, as they say it will otherwise be difficult to meet the bank’s 2 percent inflation target.

The dollar and euro were treading water against the Japanese currency, nearly flat on the day. The greenback bought 103.30 yen, after wavering in a 103.20-103.43 yen range, while the single currency changed hands at 143.22 yen, after wobbling between 143.08 yen and 143.44 yen.

The dollar was barely changed against a basket of major currencies, inching up slightly to 79.804.

EURO‘S RESILIENCE

The euro edged down about 0.1 percent against the dollar to $1.3865, but remained not far from a 2-1/2-year peak of $1.3915 touched on Friday.

The euro’s resilience held up even as the crisis in Ukraine continued. A pro-Russian force opened fire in seizing a Ukrainian military base in Crimea on Monday and NATO announced reconnaissance flights along its eastern frontiers.

Investors also warily watched developments in China, where short-term rates and the yuan both stabilised, after they fell on Monday following weak exports data released over the weekend.

“China is not a factor today, but it could emerge at any time as a factor weighing on risk,” said a market researcher at a foreign exchange consultancy in Tokyo.

The Australian dollar, often used as a liquid proxy for China plays because of its sensitivity to developments in Australia’s largest export market, was up about 0.1 percent at $0.9021.

The New Zealand dollar hit a post-float high against a currency basket on Tuesday ahead of a widely expected rise in New Zealand interest rates on Thursday. On a trade-weighted basis, the kiwi rose as high as 79.51, according to Reuters data, its highest level since the currency was floated in 1985.

The Reserve Bank of New Zealand is set to raise interest rates and lay out a path for a series of increases over the next two years, according to a Reuters poll of economists.

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