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Investors have no yen for currency

THE yen fell to a 12-week low against the United States dollar yesterday as the deterioration in Japan's economy eroded the currency's allure for investors fleeing the financial crisis in the US and Europe.

Japan's currency also dropped to the weakest level in a month versus the euro after Prime Minister Taro Aso's approval rating slumped, according to a survey published yesterday by Sankei newspaper, and economists forecast a report this week will show that the trade deficit widened to the largest in 23 years. The dollar declined versus the euro on speculation a US report yesterday would show home prices fell at the fastest pace on record in December.

"We are going to see the yen continue to weaken regardless of what stocks do," said Ian Stannard, a foreign-exchange strategist in London at BNP Paribas SA. "We have quite a lot of negative news coming from Japan." The yen will trade between 97.5 and 98 per dollar "in the next few days," Stannard said.

Japan's currency weakened to 95.65 per dollar as of 11:03am in London from 94.61 on Monday in New York. It traded as low as 95.69, the lowest level since November 28. It depreciated to 122.67 per euro, after trading at 122.73, the lowest level since January 9, from 120.10 on Monday.

Japan's trade deficit widened to 1.2 trillion yen in January, the Finance Ministry is expected to say today, according to a Bloomberg News survey. Core consumer prices probably fell for the first time in more than a year in January, economists in a separate survey predict a government report will show on Friday.

The yen fell 6.5 percent against the US dollar since trading at a 13-year high on January 21 even as the Standard & Poor's 500 Index lost almost 12 percent. Its decline yesterday against the euro was the fifth in as many days, the longest stretch since September.

Losing status

The MSCI World Index lost 0.5 percent yesterday, its 11th straight decline, as every major stock market in Europe dropped. Futures on the S&P 500 Index gained 1 percent.

"The yen appears to be losing some of its safe-haven status," said Masanobu Ishikawa, general manager of foreign exchange at Tokyo Forex & Ueda Harlow Ltd, Japan's largest currency broker. "Japan's economic and political situation is poor."

Aso's approval rating fell 6.8 percentage points from last month to 11.4 percent, while his disapproval rating rose 8.8 points to 80.2 percent, the Sankei survey, conducted with Fuji News Network, showed. The governing Liberal Democratic Party has the support of 21.9 percent, versus 25.9 percent for the opposition Democratic Party of Japan.


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