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Japan PM voices concern over yen rapid rise

TOKYO, Aug 12 – Japanese government leaders voiced concerns about the strength of the yen on Thursday in a "verbal intervention" aimed at taming the recent rise of the unit, which could threaten a fragile recovery.

The dollar, which hit a 15-year low of 84.73 yen overnight as investors sought the safe-haven unit amid renewed jitters over the health of the global economy, moved as high as 85.79 yen after the comments, before easing.

Prime Minister Kan said Thursday the currency\’s advance was too "rapid" and agreed with his right-hand man and Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku to keep a close eye on the issue, Japanese media reports said.

The greenback rose back above the key 85-yen level on news that Japanese officials showed concern over the unit\’s strength, which poses a threat to the export sector driving Japan\’s fragile economic rebound.

But cooling earlier speculation that Japan may be ready to intervene in currency markets for the first time since 2004, finance minister Yoshihiko Noda said he would monitor the situation.

The government will watch currency markets "with the greatest concern," Noda told reporters at the finance ministry, adding however that he would "refrain from making comments on possible intervention."

Bank of Japan governor Masaaki Shirakawa said he noted the recent volatility in financial markets amid concerns over the US recovery.

"There are substantial fluctuations in the foreign exchange and stock markets mainly against the backdrop of growing uncertainty about the outlook for the US economy," Shirakawa said in a statement.

Noda earlier this week said he wanted the Bank of Japan to "cooperate" more with the government to tackle the rising yen, in a sign of fresh pressure on the body from officials.

The Bank of Japan on Tuesday kept its key rate unchanged at 0.1 percent, but analysts say there is little it can do to stem the yen\’s rise given that the current situation is based on fears for the US economy and dollar weakness.

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The safe-haven yen has strengthened beyond the trading levels assumed earlier by many exporters who have eyed its rise with anxiety, as investors seek a refuge from dollar and euro volatility.

For every one-yen rise in the currency\’s value against the dollar, companies can lose tens of billions of yen earned overseas when repatriated, threatening a sector that Japan depends on to offset its weak domestic picture.

Tokyo\’s Nikkei 225 index sank 0.86 percent Thursday, after falling more than 2.0 percent intraday as shares in exporters tumbled before paring earlier losses on intervention speculation.

Doubts over the pace of recovery in the United States have pressured the dollar in recent weeks.

The downbeat view taken by the US Federal Reserve Tuesday, which warned that recovery in the world\’s largest economy was slowing and opted for further stimulus measures, has also boosted demand for the yen.

However, many market players believe Japanese authorities are unlikely to step in with markets at the current level.

"It would be difficult for Japan to get the nod from (western financial capitals) for a big yen-selling intervention," said Hideaki Inoue, dealer at Mitsubishi UFJ Trust and Banking.

"Japan also needs to be seen to practice what it preaches, having urged China to let its currency float freely."

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