31 October 2001, 12:02  Dollar eases against yen, euro ahead of U.S. GDP release

TOKYO, Oct. 31 (Kyodo) - By: Yoshino Matsui The U.S. dollar eased against the yen and the euro in Tokyo on Wednesday from its levels late Tuesday in New York as players braced for the release of weak U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) data later in the day. At 5 p.m., the dollar was quoted at 121.82-85 yen compared with Tuesday's 5 p.m. quotes of 121.90-122.00 yen in New York and 121.80-82 yen in Tokyo. During the day, the dollar moved between 121.72 yen and 122.22 yen, trading most frequently at 121.82 yen. The euro stood at $0.9052-9055 and 110.29-33 yen at 5 p.m. compared with $0.9040-9050 and 110.30-40 yen at 5 p.m. Tuesday in New York. The U.S. currency weakened somewhat against the yen and the euro during the Tokyo trading day as players held their breath ahead of the release of the U.S. GDP figure for the July-September quarter of this year, due out Wednesday night Japan time. The eyes of financial markets worldwide are fixed on the U.S. economic growth, as the September terrorist attacks in New York and Washington and the subsequent military campaign in Afghanistan have raised concerns that the world's largest economy might have slipped into recession. "The market is in the process of factoring in negative U.S. economic figures, including the GDP, by selling the dollar," said Daisuke Uno, a chief market analyst at Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp. Market players now believe the health of the U.S. economy in October was worse than anticipated, and expect to see poor figures for October job data and other indicators to be released later this week, he said. U.S. GDP is widely expected to show a negative reading. "The dollar may rise if the GDP is around minus 1%, which is a mean figure for market expectations, because some people expect an economic contraction on a much wider scale," said Hideyuki Tsukamoto, a foreign exchange manager at Fuji Bank. Uno agreed with the view and said that the dollar is unlikely to suffer any severe selling that would push it below 121 yen from the GDP release unless the figure is deemed "disastrous." In the afternoon, the Japanese government released more gloomy economic data in the wake of the announcement of a record high jobless rate in the previous day, with the infrastructure ministry saying that housing starts fell 2.9% in September from a year earlier. The ministry also said the volume of orders won by the nation's 50 leading general contractors tumbled 10.5% in September from a year before. While both housing starts and the volume of construction orders fell for the first time in three months, none of these data led to unloading of the yen, marking a similar market reaction to the announcement Tuesday of the 5.3% unemployment rate, which was described by the labor minister as "an emergency." "The market has already factored in the negative Japanese figures. Everybody knows that the Japanese economy is weak," said Fuji Bank's Tsukamoto. He said he will carefully monitor how the dollar will move in New York following the GDP release as he believes the direction can give a clue for the U.S. currency's trend until the end of this year.

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