Monday, May 23, 2016

FOREX-Post-G7 yen gains halt dollar rally

* Dollar falls vs yen on Japan trade data, weaker Nikkei

* G7 meeting displays US-Japan rift on intervention

* Dollar index hovering just under two-month peak

* Fed rate hike view sees dollar post third week of gains

* More Fed speakers due on Monday (Updates prices, adds new quote)

By Patrick Graham

LONDON, May 23 Robust trade data from Japan had the yen back on the rise on Monday after three weeks of solid gains for the dollar which have given fresh heart to those hoping for another rally as U.S. interest rates rise.

A Group of Seven finance ministers' meeting concluded on Saturday with the United States warning Japan against intervening to weaken the yen, a rift that is perceived as preventing Tokyo from acting.

Top of the agenda this week is whether U.S. data adds to the case for a June or July hike in rates, with a handful of appearances by U.S. Federal Reserve policymakers expected to back the case for a move within months.

Sterling, and sterling options markets, were roughly steady after last week's rollercoaster ride following a shift in market odds away from a vote for a British exit from the European Union in next month's referendum.

With stock markets back on the defensive in Europe and Asia, the yen - traditionally a haven for capital when markets are worried about growth - rose 0.8 percent against both the euro and the dollar

"The risks are to the upside for the dollar, but the key is that we would remain selective in our long dollar positions. It is not an across the board bullishness," said Bank of America Merrill Lynch strategist Kamal Sharma.

"We like being long against commodity currencies. We would sell the dollar against the yen on rallies."

Data on Monday showed Japan's trade balance in April was 823.5 billion yen ($7.50 billion), against economists' forecasts for a 492.8 billion yen increase. Japan logged a trade surplus for the third consecutive month.

If a country's exports exceed its imports, as in Japan's recent case, there is in theory a high demand for its goods and therefore for its currency.

"The April trade surplus was due in large part to weak imports. Still, the data was enough to trigger yen buying," said Masashi Murata, senior currency strategist at Brown Brothers Harriman in Tokyo.

"The trade numbers came out against a political backdrop that does not favour Japan intervening to weaken the yen, thus making it relatively easy for participants to buy back the yen."

The G7 disagreement on currencies helped push the Nikkei down more than 1 percent, adding further support to the safe-haven yen.

The dollar index of its strength against a basket of other currencies was little changed since Friday at 95.211 and still close to Thursday's high of 95.520. It rose 0.8 percent last week, climbing for a third week.

"The key focus this week will be on whether U.S. data and comments from Fed officials support tightening expectations further," analysts from France's BNP Paribas said in a note. "We remain doubtful and are inclined to sell the dollar on rallies versus the euro and yen." (Additional reporting by Shinichi Saoshiro in TOKYO; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

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