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Yen slips as Abe presses BOJ on inflation target

Shinzo Abe, Japan's incoming prime minister and the leader of Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), walks past his portrait after attending a meeting at the LDP headquarters in Tokyo on Dec. 21, 2012.

Toru Hanai/REUTERS

The yen fell on Monday to trade near a 20-month low against the dollar after incoming prime minister Shinzo Abe heaped fresh pressure on the Bank of Japan to adopt a higher inflation target.

The yen, which rose on Friday as some investors trimmed large bets against it, was weighed down by Mr. Abe's comments on Sunday that he would try to revise a law guaranteeing the BOJ's independence if his demand for a binding 2 per cent inflation target – double its current goal – is not met.

The dollar was up 0.2 per cent on the day at ¥84.42. Chartists said the dollar needed to overcome 85.05 yen, its 200-week moving average for it to sustain further gains.

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"There has been some pretty significant yen selling all through the night and into this morning," said Peter Kinsella, currency strategist at Commerzbank.

"It is very noticeable we have not seen any retracement or dip in dollar/yen at all. The market is really saying they are convinced on yen weakness and that is what we are going to see for the remainder of this year and in the course of next year."

The U.S. currency hit a 20-month high of ¥84.62 last Wednesday as the yen fell after a landslide election victory for Mr. Abe's Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).

Mr. Abe, who is set to become Japan's prime minister on Wednesday, has called for aggressive monetary stimulus by the BOJ to beat deflation and this has dragged on the yen.

The yen also slipped against the euro. The single currency was up 0.4 per cent on the day at ¥111.54 yen, not far from a 16-month high of ¥112.59, hit on Dec. 19, when speculators sold the Japanese currency on expectations of aggressive BOJ easing.

The euro was up 0.2 per cent against the dollar at $1.3219. It hit an eight-month high of $1.33085 last Wednesday.

However, a lack of progress since then in U.S. budget talks led market player to dump the euro for the safe-haven dollar, that tends to rise in times of market stress.

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The dollar was lower on the day against major currencies, but strategists said it was likely to gain some support given the uncertainty over the talks to avert the so-called U.S. "fiscal cliff" dented investors' appetite for risky assets.

"It looks like all momentum for the fiscal cliff negotiations is gone," Rob Ryan, strategist for RBS in Singapore, said on Monday.

He said the greenback will probably hold firm in the near term, although it could get pushed around by year-end flows over the next several days.

Some U.S. lawmakers voiced concerns on Sunday that the country would go over the cliff, triggering tax increases and spending cuts early next year that could push the world's largest economy back into recession.

The dollar surged on Friday after a budget plan proposed by the Republican speaker of the House of Representatives, John Boehner, failed to win support from his own party.

Focus has shifted to Congress acting after Jan. 1

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The dollar index, which measures the greenback's value against a basket of major currencies, stood at 79.528, staying above a two-month low of 79.008 set last Wednesday.

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