Archive for April, 2011
* Dollar index hits 3-yr low, euro hits 17-mth high
* Model funds latching on to weak dollar trend
* Euro may head toward $1.50, Aussie $1.10-analyst
* BOJ keeps monetary policy unchanged as expected
By Masayuki Kitano
SINGAPORE, April 28 (Reuters) – The dollar sank to a three-year low against a basket of currencies on Thursday and was at risk of a drop to $1.50 versus the euro, with momentum-driven investors piling on in anticipation U.S. interest rates will be low for a long time.
The dollar slid across the board, with the Australian dollar bulldozing previous highs to a 29-year peak above $1.0900. Both the euro and sterling scaled 17-month highs and the Singapore dollar hit yet another record high.
Various market players including Asian investors and model funds, sold the dollar anew, said a Tokyo-based trader.
Analysts said more dollar weakness was likely after the Federal Reserve said overnight that it would end its bond-buying programme in June as planned and appeared in no rush to tighten monetary policy further.
“We’re looking for reasons why it shouldn’t continue but the over-riding big picture is that it should continue,” said Rob Ryan, FX strategist at BNP Paribas in Singapore.
“It’s clear that the dollar selling has been given a green light and we have the Asian central banks intervening… So that suggests further upside for the euro and Aussie,” Ryan said.
Traders cited talk of dollar-buying intervention by a few Asian central banks on Thursday. Traders and analysts say such central banks often later sell some of the dollars purchased through intervention to buy other major currencies, to help keep their currency holdings diversified. [ID:nL3E7FS09Z]
The dollar index, which measures the dollar’s value against a basket of currencies, slid to a three-year low of 72.871, and last stood at 72.972 , down 0.7 percent on the day.
The dollar index has slid nearly 4 percent this month, on track for the biggest monthly decline since Sept. 2010 and bringing it closer to a record low of 70.698 hit in March 2008.
The euro hit a 17-month high of $1.4882 on trading platform EBS, its rise having gained steam after triggering stop-loss bids around that level and after breaching resistance around $1.4850, the upper part of a uptrend channel that had been in place since mid-February.
“It’s obviously pretty much open water here until $1.50,” said Ryan at BNP Paribas. Ryan added that the Australian dollar could try for $1.10.
The euro last stood at $1.4858 , up 0.5 percent from late U.S. trading on Wednesday.
Daisuke Uno, chief strategist at Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp in Tokyo, said the euro could soon rise above its November 2009 high of $1.5145.
“The euro will probably rise to around $1.52 next week,” Uno said, adding that U.S. may be slipping into stagflation, which makes U.S. policy manoeuvres more difficult.
NO TRACTION FROM BERNANKE
The dollar gained no traction from a news conference by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke on Wednesday where he forecast weaker U.S. growth in the first three months of 2011, though he attributed it to transitory factors. It was the first regularly scheduled briefing by a Fed chief in the central bank’s 97-year history. [ID:nN26291565]
“The reason for the dollar’s broad weakness is that market players think it makes sense to use the dollar to fund investment in various assets, since U.S. interest rates are likely to stay low for a while,” said Daisuke Karakama, market economist at Mizuho Corporate Bank in Tokyo.
A Reuters poll on Wednesday showed that most U.S. primary dealers expect the Fed to keep interest rates near zero through the end of 2011. By contrast both the European Central Bank and the Bank of England are seen likely to raise interest rates later this year.
Sterling was also on a tear, hitting a 17-month peak of $1.6747 , and last up 0.5 percent at $1.6714. Possible upside targets include the November 2009 high at $1.6879 and then the August 2009 peak of $1.7044.
The Australian dollar scaled a fresh 29-year high near $1.0948 and was last up 0.6 percent at $1.0927.
The yen showed muted reaction after the Bank of Japan kept monetary policy steady on Thursday, as widely expected.
In a surprise move, Deputy Governor Kiyohiko Nishimura proposed expanding the BOJ’s pool of funds for asset buying and market operations by 5 trillion yen ($61 billion), to 45 trillion yen, but the proposal was rejected by a vote of one to eight. [ID:nL3E7FR5BU]
The yen took the news in stride, however. The dollar was last down 0.5 percent at 81.75 yen , little changed compared to just before the BOJ’s announcement, and not far from a one-month low of 81.27 yen hit on Wednesday.
The yen had been sold earlier this month as traders think quake-stricken Japan is even less likely than the United States to tighten its monetary policy for the foreseeable future. (Additional reporting by Reuters FX Analyst Rick Lloyd and Jongwoo Cheon in Singapore, Hideyuki Sano in Tokyo)
FUTABA, Japan — Japan officially sealed off a wide area around a crippled nuclear power plant early Friday to prevent tens of thousands of residents from sneaking back to the homes they quickly evacuated only to endure a long wait to return.
Fearing they might not see their homes and belongings again for at least six months, evacuees raced into the deserted towns Thursday before the ban took effect to grab whatever belongings they could cram into their cars.
“This is our last chance, but we aren’t going to stay long. We are just getting what we need and getting out,” said Kiyoshi Kitajima, an X-ray technician, who dashed to his hospital in Futaba, a town next-door to the plant, to collect equipment before the order took effect at midnight.
Nearly 80,000 people were hurriedly evacuated from a 12-mile zone around the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant on March 12, after an earthquake and a tsunami destroyed its power and cooling systems. The evacuation order had no teeth, and people began increasingly returning to check on the remains of their lives. Some had stayed all along.
With ongoing concerns about radiation exposure — as well as theft in the mainly deserted zone — government officials announced that as of midnight Thursday the residents would be formally barred from entering the area.
Under a special nuclear emergency law, people who enter the zone will now be subject to fines of up to $1,200 or possible detention of up to 30 days. Up to now, defiance of the evacuation order was not punishable by law, and the police manning the roadblocks had no authority to stop people from entering.
“We beg the understanding of residents. We really want residents not to enter the areas,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano told reporters.
The order angered some residents who had fled nearly empty-handed when told to evacuate.
“I initially thought we would be able to return within a few days. So I brought nothing except a bank card,” said Kazuko Suzuki, 49, of Futaba.
“I really want to go back. I want to check if our house is still there,” said Suzuki, who fled with her teenage son and daughter. “My patience has run out. I just want to go home.”
With the deadline approaching for the area to be sealed off, evacuees ventured into the evacuation zone, some in white protective suits and others in face masks and rain gear they hoped would protect against radiation. Most raced through the zone with car windows closed, their vehicles stuffed with clothing and valuables.
While the levels of radioactivity in the evacuated area have been quite low, the government wants to keep people away out of concerns that long-term exposure can be dangerous.
As of Thursday night, about 40 people remained in the area, many of them dairy farmers who are refusing to leave their cattle, and elderly people who cannot move, the government said. Local officials were working to persuade them to leave, rather than punishing them, according to Kenji Kawasaki of Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency.
About 3,400 cows, 31,000 pigs and 630,000 chickens were left in the zone, according to government figures, though most were assumed to have died by now.
The no-go order was not issued because of any particular change in plant conditions, which appear to have somewhat stabilized. Even under the best-case scenario, however, the plant’s operator says it will take six to nine months to bring its reactors safely into a cold shutdown.
In a visit to the region, Prime Minister Naoto Kan said the government would do everything possible to speed up that timetable so residents could return to their homes faster than planned. Kan also gave a pep talk to workers at a nuclear crisis management center in Fukushima.
Edano said authorities would allow one person per household to return to the area by bus for a maximum of two hours to collect necessary belongings. Participants would have to go through radiation screening, he said.
Residents chafed at the limit to just one person per household.
Details were still being worked out, and Edano said he hoped each family would be able to make the trip within the next month or two. When the situation stabilizes, families will be allowed further visits, he said.
No visits will be allowed in the two-mile area closest to the plant, said Hidehiko Nishiyama of NISA.
Katsunobu Sakurai, mayor of Minami Soma, where about half the 71,000 residents lived in areas that will now be off-limits, questioned the rationale for the way the evacuation zone was decided.
“It feels like some outsider who doesn’t know anything about our geography sat at a desk and drew these circles,” Sakurai said. “The zones have zero scientific basis. Radiation doesn’t travel in neat circles. Just putting up circles around the plant is unreasonable.”
Fukushima’s governor, who has been critical of the government’s performance, said he urged Kan to ensure the government properly handles the disaster and related compensation issues.
“I told the prime minister that I strongly hope that evacuees can return home as early as possible,” said the governor, Yuhei Sato.
Meanwhile, new police data showed that at least 65 percent of the 11,108 identified victims from the earthquake and tsunami were aged 60 or older and almost all of them had drowned. Another 1,899 victims were of unknown age.
Adding those still missing, the twin disasters killed an estimated 27,500 people. The police agency said nearly 93 percent of the victims had drowned. Others perished in fires, were crushed to death or died from other causes.
The northeastern coast hardest hit by the disasters had a high concentration of elderly residents.