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Sunday, March 28, 2010

Dollar Heads for Biggest Quarterly Gain Versus Euro Since 2008

The dollar rose, poised for the biggest quarterly gain versus the euro since 2008, as European leaders’ struggle to forge a plan to bail out Greece pushed investors toward the perceived safety of the greenback.

The yen fell against all 16 of its most-traded counterparts this week as Japanese consumer prices dropped for a 12th month, increasing the chances the nation’s central bank will lag behind its peers in raising interest rates. The U.S. economy added jobs in March, a report is forecast to show next week.

“The dollar is still the safety currency,” said Jonathan Xiong, a senior portfolio manager and director at Mellon Capital Management Corp. in San Francisco, where he helps oversee $18 billion. “The European news that is coming out is unclear, clouded and uncertain. When investors are uncertain, what happens is they buy dollars.”

The dollar appreciated 0.9 percent to $1.3410 versus the euro, from $1.3530 a week earlier. It was headed for a gain of 6.8 percent for the quarter, the largest since it advanced 11.8 percent in the three months ended in September 2008.

The yen dropped 2.1 percent, the most since Dec. 4, to 92.52 per dollar, from 90.54 yen on March 19. It was set for a decline of 3.8 percent this month, the most since December. The euro rose 1.3 percent to 124.06 yen, from 122.51 last week.

IMF on Standby

The European currency strengthened yesterday after leaders of the 16 nations that use the euro put the International Monetary Fund on standby to aid debt-stricken Greece, seeking to snuff out a threat to the currency’s stability. They endorsed a plan that calls for a mix of IMF and bilateral loans at market interest rates, while voicing confidence Greece won’t need outside help to cut its budget deficit, Europe’s largest.

European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet told reporters in Brussels late on March 25 he was “extraordinarily happy that the governments of the euro area found out a workable solution.”

Earlier, the euro fell to a 10-month low versus the greenback after Trichet said an IMF role in funding a rescue for Greece would be “very, very bad.” He has expressed concern that turning to the Washington-based IMF would show Europe can’t address its problems.

The number of wagers by hedge funds and other large speculators on a decline in the euro versus the dollar compared with those on a gain -- so-called net shorts -- reached a record 74,917 contracts on March 23, according to Commodity Futures Trading Commission data last week. The amount was 46,341 on March 16.

Australia, Canada

The Australian and Canadian dollars fell versus the greenback for the first week this month amid speculation gains versus the U.S. dollar and the euro couldn’t be sustained.

Australia’s currency dropped 1.2 percent to 90.41 U.S. cents, from 91.54 cents on March 19. It fell 0.4 percent to A$1.4832 per euro, from A$1.4780 a week earlier.

“We’re seeing people get out of positions,” said Lauren Rosborough, a senior currency analyst at Westpac Banking Corp. in London. “The news from euro-zone officials has people looking to go long the euro against the Australian dollar.” A long position is a wager a currency will appreciate.

The loonie, as Canada’s currency is nicknamed, dropped 0.9 percent to C$1.0266 per U.S. dollar, while remaining near the strongest level in 20 months versus the greenback.

The U.S. currency rose against the yen before a report next week that’s expected to show the U.S. gained jobs in March, increasing the likelihood the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates before the Bank of Japan.

U.S. Employment

U.S. payrolls added 190,000 jobs in March, according to the median forecast of 62 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News before the Labor Department releases the data April 2. The economy lost 36,000 jobs in February.

Japan’s consumer prices excluding fresh food slid 1.2 percent from a year earlier, after dropping a 1.3 percent in each of the preceding two months, the nation’s statistics bureau said yesterday in Tokyo. The data intensifies pressure on the central bank to eradicate the deflation that’s hampering the economic recovery.

Mexico’s peso was the only major currency that gained against the dollar this week, as an economic recovery in the U.S. fueled demand for the Latin American nation’s exports.

The peso gained 0.7 percent to 12.4962 per U.S. dollar, from 12.5854 on March 19. It has strengthened during six of the past seven weeks against the dollar.

The Mexican currency gained 4.8 percent against the dollar this year, the best performance among the 16 major currencies tracked by Bloomberg.

Yuan forwards strengthened yesterday after a central-bank adviser said China may resume a “managed float” of the currency, bolstering optimism the government will allow appreciation.

Twelve-month non-deliverable forwards rose as much as 0.2 percent to 6.6675 per dollar, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The contracts reflect bets the currency will gain 2.3 percent from the spot rate of 6.8270.

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