Thursday, December 16, 2010

Euro falls on Spain worries

NEW YORK: The euro fell on Wednesday, Dec 15 after Moody's warned it could downgrade Spain's credit, but investors, sniffing for a bargain, swooped in and bought the country's sovereign bonds in a hunt for yield.

European share prices ended lower after Moody's announcement, ending a two-week rally, while Wall Street was little changed after early gains on upbeat U.S. economic data.

Precious metals prices came under pressure as the U.S. dollar rose. Oil gained following an unexpectedly large drop in U.S. inventories.

U.S. Treasuries saw their early flight-to-safety buying momentum wane, but the 10-year benchmark note held modest gains while the 30-year bond lost more than half a point.

Spanish government bonds reversed early losses. The 10-year government bond yields shot up to a high of 6.43 percent before falling past Tuesday's closing level to 5.48 percent, down 7 basis points for the day.

"It's literally a question of people thinking maybe Spain is too cheap," said Huw Worthington, a European fixed income strategist at Barclays Capital in London. "People have maybe cheapened it too much ahead of the auction."

Spain will hold a 10- and 15-year bond auction on Thursday.

The euro fell to a record low against the Swiss franc of 1.2758 francs on the EBS trading platform before recouping to 1.2787, off 0.4 percent.

Against the dollar the euro fell 0.91 percent at $1.3262. The greenback rose 0.49 percent to 84.04 against the yen. Against major currencies the U.S. dollar was up 0.79 percent.

Moody's cited concerns about Spain's mounting debt and 2011 funding needs. The decision included the caveat that while the Aa1 rating could be cut, it does not expect Madrid to have to follow Greece and Ireland in requiring a European Union bailout.

U.S. economic data, including November industrial output and consumer inflation and December New York-region manufacturing, pointed to an accelerating pace of recovery. The stronger data did little to deter investors from buying U.S. government debt where a recent selloff made yields more attractive.

"The CPI was friendly for bonds," said David Ader, senior government bond strategist at CRT Capital Group in Stamford, Connecticut, referring to the Consumer Price Index.

Benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasuries traded up 10/32 in price, pushing the yield down to 3.45 percent. Buyers appeared as yields hit a seven-month high of 3.50 percent. The 30-year bond however was off 18/32 of a point in price, yielding 4.57 percent.


U.S. stocks rose early on economic data.

"The economic numbers are giving us this upside, but I want to see how we end today. If we roll over today, that would say to me we're probably going to plod through to the end of the year," said Kurt Brunner, portfolio manager at Swarthmore Group in Philadelphia.

In midday trade, the Dow Jones industrial average rose 14.27 points, or 0.12 percent, to 11,490.81. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index fell 2.76 points, or 0.22 percent, at 1,238.83. The Nasdaq Composite Index lost 1.61 points, or 0.06 percent, at 2,626.11.

However, the Moody's report on Spain cramped the style of European investors.

The FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares closed down 0.46 percent at 1,127.25. The index was up over 6 percent in the 10 days leading into the announcement on Spain.

Spain's Banco Santander fell 2.64 percent.

Share prices in Japan slipped from Tuesday's seven-month closing high. The benchmark Nikkei stock index fell 0.07 percent.

The price of crude oil rose after a government report showed oil inventories fell much more than expected last week. Crude for January delivery rose 16 cents a barrel to $88.44, up 0.22 percent on the day.

Spot gold prices fell $10.75 to $1,385.10. - Reuters

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