Friday, March 14, 2008

Forex news

Dollar Falls to 12-Year Low of 100 Yen on Carlyle Fund Failure

March 13 (Bloomberg) -- The dollar fell below 100 yen earlier today for the first time since 1995 and dropped to a record low against the euro after a Carlyle Group fund moved closer to collapse, adding to turmoil in financial markets.

The dollar approached parity with the Swiss franc and slumped against the British pound after Carlyle said lenders will seize the assets of its mortgage-bond fund and President George W. Bush said the U.S. currency's decline was not ``good tidings.'' The dollar's drop may prompt Middle East central banks to reduce dollar holdings, Greg Gibbs, a strategist at ABN Amro Holding NV in Sydney, said in a report.

``Sentiment for the dollar continues to deteriorate very, very rapidly and if we're not careful this will turn into a dollar crash,'' said Mitul Kotecha, head of foreign-exchange research in London at Calyon, the securities unit of Credit Agricole SA, France's second-biggest bank. ``The risk is that we see a fairly aggressive move sharply lower towards 95 yen, and that could really perk up the interest of the Bank of Japan.''

The dollar fell to 99.77 yen, the lowest since October 1995, before trading at 100.18 at 10:29 a.m. in New York, from 101.79 yesterday. The dollar touched $1.5624 per euro, the weakest since the European currency's debut in 1999, and was at $1.5589, from $1.5551. It slid to a record 1.0045 Swiss francs. Japan's currency advanced to 156.21 per euro, from 158.30.

The U.S. currency fell against a basket of six major trading partners to the lowest since the index began in 1973. The Dollar Index traded on ICE Futures in New York declined as low as 71.82. The dollar dropped to $2.0365 per pound from $2.0270, touching the weakest since December.

Yen Sales

Japan sold the yen on the four occasions since 1995 when the currency approached 100 to support exporters including Toyota Motor Corp., the world's second-biggest automaker. The Bank of Japan sold 14.8 trillion yen ($148 billion) in the first three months of 2004, after record sales of 20.4 trillion yen in 2003.

The yen's 24 percent gain against the dollar from a 4 1/2- year low on June 22 was ``unexpected'' and will damage earnings, Toyota President Katsuaki Watanabe said today.

``We must continue cost cuts by all means, but the currency has reached the level where we have to think about other measures,'' Watanabe told reporters in Tokyo. A gain of 1 yen against the dollar cuts Toyota's annual operating profit by 35 billion yen, according to the automaker.

Intervention Risk

The yen may rise as high as 95 per dollar, according to forecasts this month by Citigroup Inc., the third-biggest currency trader, Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., the fourth- biggest U.S. securities firm, and Mizuho Financial Group Inc., Japan's second-largest publicly traded bank. Deutsche Bank AG and UBS AG, the two biggest currency traders, had predicted the dollar would hold above 100.

``There's more than a 50 percent probability that the U.S. is in recession,'' Eisuke Sakakibara, dubbed ``Mr. Yen'' when he was Japan's top currency official from 1997 to 1999, said in an interview on March 6. ``The dollar-yen rate is dependent on the state of the U.S. economy.''

The Group of Seven, which next meets April 12-13 in Washington, may signal its intent to consider coordinated intervention, UBS strategists wrote in a March 3 report. Unilateral intervention ``seems unlikely'' as Japan's economy has grown every year since 2002, it said.

Central banks intervene in the foreign-exchange market when they buy or sell currencies to influence exchange rates.

Exiting Carry Trades

The yen also gained as investors exited so-called carry trades, in which they borrow in a country with low interest rates and buy higher-yielding assets elsewhere, earning the spread between the two. The risk is that currency moves erase those profits.

Japan's benchmark rate of 0.5 percent compares with 3 percent in the U.S., 4 percent in Europe, 7.25 percent in Australia and 8.25 percent in New Zealand.

Carlyle Capital Corp., co-founded by David Rubenstein, said in a statement it defaulted on about $16.6 billion of debt as of yesterday. Lenders will ``promptly'' take over all of its remaining assets and any remaining debt is expected ``soon'' to go into default, it said.

The yen has rallied 13 percent against the dollar as the Fed cut rates amid the worst housing slump in a quarter of a century and $190 billion of U.S. subprime-mortgage-related losses and markdowns at the world's biggest financial institutions.

Losing Confidence

``Investors are starting to lose confidence in the dollar, given the increased uncertainty over credit-related losses,'' Lee Hardman, a currency strategist at Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ Ltd. in London, wrote in a note to clients today. ``Carlyle is unlikely to be the last hedge fund in difficulty. That will only further depress investor sentiment.''

Drake Management LLC, the New York based-firm started by former BlackRock Inc. money managers, said yesterday it may shut its largest hedge fund, while GO Capital Asset Management BV blocked clients from withdrawing cash from one of its funds.

The biggest job losses in five years and record fuel costs are eroding U.S. consumer confidence and spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of the economy. Lehman and JPMorgan Chase & Co. last week said the U.S. is headed into a recession.

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