Wednesday, February 17, 2016

FOREX-Yen gives up gains as oil and stocks turn higher

* Yen gives up gains as European stocks rise

* Sterling inches up after UK jobs data

* US data, Fed meeting minutes awaited for cues (Recasts, adds details, updates prices)

By Anirban Nag

LONDON, Feb 17 The yen gave up gains on Wednesday as oil prices and stock markets in Europe ticked higher, removing some of the appeal of the safe-haven Japanese currency.

Earlier, the yen had strengthened as Asian stock markets fell and oil prices slipped. In addition, China fixed a softer mid-point for the onshore yuan, a factor that weighed on riskier emerging market currencies and growth-linked currencies like the Australian dollar.

Against the yen, the dollar was steady on the day at 114.12 yen, recovering from a low of 113.37 yen struck early in the London session.

"We expect the dollar to trade between 112-114 yen, with the market cautious about driving it towards 110 yen, as that could spark off talk of intervention by the Japanese authorities," said Yujiro Goto, a currency strategist at Nomura.

The dollar tumbled below 111 yen last week, a 16-month low, after stocks and commodities plunged and expectations faded for another interest rate increase by the Federal Reserve. It rebounded as risk aversion subsided but remained vulnerable to swings in oil prices.

Oil prices rose as efforts to freeze production levels and ease a global glut turned to Iran, after a lacklustre response to Tuesday's deal between Saudi Arabia and Russia. That rise in oil helped European stock markets, although risk sentiment was at best fragile amid concern global growth was slowing.

Nomura's Goto said risk sentiment would dictate direction for now, and traders would be watching U.S. housing and industrial production data and the minutes of the Fed's January policy meeting later in the day for cues.

Over the next month, though, a focal point for the dollar against the yen is the possibility of more monetary stimulus by the Bank of Japan, said Tan Teck Leng, FX strategist for UBS's Wealth Management in Singapore.

"The very reason why they decided to adopt negative rates in January, when dollar/yen was at 118, is because they wanted to encourage wage growth in 'shunto' taking place this month and next month," Tan said, referring to wage negotiations in Japan.

If the dollar is stuck near current levels against the yen by the time of the BoJ's policy meeting on March 14-15, the central bank might adopt further stimulus, Tan said.

Meanwhile, the low-yielding euro was flat at $1.1145 while sterling edged up from a two-week low against the dollar after mixed data from the UK labour market showed wage growth slowing but the number of people in employment reaching a record high. (Additional reporting by Masayuki Kitano, editing by Larry King)

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