January 11, 2013 / 2:45 AM / 5 years ago

FOREX-Yen hits 2 1/2-year low on Abe, Japan c/a deficit

* Abe says BOJ should consider maximising employment as mandate

* BOJ’s easing stance contrasts with no easing sign from ECB

* Japan Nov current account deficit larger than expected

* Dollar/yen up 0.2 pct, hit high of 89.35 yen

* Euro/dollar near 8 1/2-month peak after ECB

By Hideyuki Sano

TOKYO, Jan 11 (Reuters) - The yen slid to 2 1/2-year lows on Friday after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the Bank of Japan should consider maximising employment as a policy goal on top of its current price stability mandate.

Abe’s comments, made in an interview with the Nikkei newspaper published on Friday, put renewed pressure on the yen as having a dual mandate, similar to the U.S. Federal Reserve‘s, could make the BOJ undertake more aggressive easing.

The dollar rose to as high as 89.35 yen, its strongest since June 2010, before giving up some of its gains to trade at 88.90 yen, still up 0.2 percent from late U.S. levels.

Data showed Japan posted a current account deficit of 222.4 billion yen ($2.5 billion) in November. It was the first deficit in 10 months and far larger than economists’ median forecast of an almost negligible deficit of 3.5 billion yen ($39 million).

“The data shows Japan’s trade balance is hit by slow trade with China since September (after a territorial dispute that sparked anti-Japan riots.) Deficit in the current account is likely to continue in the next couple of months given its seasonal pattern,” said Ayako Sera, market economist at Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Bank.

The dollar’s gain accelerated after a break of the 88.50 option barrier triggered short-covering in thin early Wellington trade.

“Short-term players who had earlier taken profits are now re-entering. A rise above 90 is within sight now,” said a trader at a Japanese bank.

The euro also climbed to 118.58 yen, a high last seen in May 2011, and last stood at 117.79 yen, slightly above late U.S. levels.

The yen has been tumbling since November on speculation of more easing from the BOJ, with traders expecting the central bank to adopt an explicit two percent inflation target at its policy meeting on Jan. 21-22 to fall in line with the aims of the Liberal Democrat Party-led government elected last month.

The BOJ’s deepening bias for easing was in stark contrast to other major central banks.

Minutes of the U.S. Federal Reserve’s last policy meeting published last week showed some officials at the bank are concerned about potential side effects of stimulus.

And on Thursday, European Central Bank President Mario Draghi gave no indication it would cut rates in the near future, disappointing euro bears who had thought the ECB would be inclined to cut rates to shore up the wobbly euro zone economy.

As a result the euro jumped 1.6 percent on Thursday, its biggest daily gain in five months and held little changed from late U.S. levels at $1.3252.

The single currency is not far from 8 1/2-month peak of $1.33085 hit last month.

The euro was also bolstered by solid demand at a sale of mostly two-year Spanish debt, which caused Spain’s benchmark 10-year bond yields to fall to a 10-month low.

The British pound, hurt by a string of weak economic data in recent days, also rebounded sharply on Thursday after the Bank of England left interest rates and its quantitative easing target unchanged.

The pound stood at $1.6155, maintaining its 0.8 percent gain on Thursday.

The Australian dollar clung near a four-month high hit on Thursday after strong Chinese trade data. The Aussie unit fetched $1.0586, near Thursday’s high of $1.0599.

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