LONDON (Reuters) - The euro hit a four-month low against a broadly firmer pound on Monday as persistent concerns over Greece’s ballooning fiscal deficit kept the single European currency under selling pressure in subdued trade.
As Greece’s debt burden highlighted the fragility of some euro zone members, investors awaited comments from a meeting of the 16-country bloc’s finance ministers on Monday.
The ministers are due to discuss the unreliability of Greek statistics, and are said to be running out of patience with Athens as it has repeatedly misled its euro zone peers about the size of its budget deficit.
“The Greek developments are definitely casting a shadow on the euro,” said Rob Minikin, currency strategist at Standard Chartered in London.
“It underlines how a strong euro could compound problems in the region, and reinvigorates the argument for a weaker euro,” he said, adding he expected the euro to weaken broadly in the near term.
On the other hand, sterling gained on firmer UK housing data and as speculative players chased it higher on reports that French utility GDF Suez GSZ.PA was eyeing a tie-up with Britain’s International Power IPR.L.
Overall, trade was subdued as U.S. markets were closed for Martin Luther King Day.
By 1434 GMT, the euro was flat on the day at $1.4380.
Against the pound, the euro fell 0.6 percent to 87.82 pence, its lowest since mid-September. Sterling also hit a one-month high against the dollar at $1.6380.
Following the pound’s biggest weekly gain against the dollar and the euro in more than two months last week, analysts said sterling would remain underpinned by potential upside surprises in UK inflation, jobs and retail sales data due this week.
The dollar index, a gauge of the greenback’s performance against six other major currencies, was at 77.150, versus Friday’s U.S. close of 77.323 .DXY.
The latest Commodity Futures Trading Commission data shows net dollar short positions were valued around $2.7 billion last week, shifting from a net long of $4.25 billion the previous week, according to Reuters calculations.
The data also showed a swing to a net long Swiss franc positions from a net short position the previous week, the largest net long position since early December.
Market participants said the shift was reflected in the euro’s slide to a 10-month low against the franc last week, adding a dramatic correction could not be ruled out if the Swiss central bank chose to intervene to stem further franc strength.
“This ... suggests that any potential intervention from the SNB could prove very effective - i.e. upside risk on EUR/CHF and USD/CHF from a position squeeze has risen significantly,” analysts at Danske Bank said in a note.
Swiss National Bank head Philipp Hildebrand was quoted as saying on Sunday the central bank would act resolutely to prevent an excessive appreciation of the franc to ward off the danger of deflation.
The euro was little changed at 1.4750 francs, off a 10-month low around 1.4720 francs earlier this month.
The dollar was little changed at 90.70 yen, hovering near a four-week low hit late last week.
The yen showed little reaction to a funding scandal linked to the No. 2 executive in Japan’s ruling party [ID:nTOE60G016] and as Japan Airlines 9205.T looked to be filing for bankruptcy on Tuesday.
Additional reporting by Tamawa Desai, editing by Nigel Stephenson