Debt fears push investors to sell dollars, euros

AP News
Posted: Jul 28, 2011 3:49 PM
Debt fears push investors to sell dollars, euros

The euro and dollar fell Thursday because of concerns about the ongoing debt crises in Europe and the U.S.

U.S. lawmakers are running out of time to raise the ceiling on the national debt. The Obama administration says that after Aug. 2, the U.S. could be short of cash needed to make payments. A government default could send stocks plunging and interest rates soaring, hurting the economy.

In Europe, Italy paid sharply higher rates in a bond auction despite last week's approval of a more powerful bailout fund and a second round of aid for Greece. The overhaul was meant to curb fears about Spain and Italy needing emergency aid.

In late trading Thursday in New York, the yen rose against the dollar and the euro. The Swiss franc hit its latest record high versus the euro.

The yen, franc and dollar often rise when traders are worried about a global economic slowdown, a financial crisis and during periods of geopolitical tension. The three currencies are considered safety bets, although the dollar has lost some of its appeal during the debt ceiling morass.

The euro fell to $1.4311 from $1.4372, while the British pound edged up to $1.6344 from $1.6327.

The dollar fell to 77.88 yen from 78.06 yen. The yen hasn't been this strong since before the Group of Seven major banks intervened to weaken the Japanese currency in the aftermath of the March earthquake and tsunami, which drove safety-seeking traders to invest in the currency.

The dollar rose to 0.8016 Swiss franc from 0.8022 Swiss franc. It hit a record low of 0.7988 franc earlier in the day.

The Canadian dollar, Scandinavian currencies and the Australian dollar also rose against the U.S. currency.

The dollar has declined broadly in the past two weeks against a slate of currencies as talks on how to raise the U.S. debt ceiling dragged on. But some analysts say that a U.S. default or downgrade of the top-notch AAA credit rating wouldn't necessarily fuel a sell-off in the dollar.

"The main reason why the dollar has fallen in anticipation of a default or downgrade is presumably concern that this would encourage foreign investors to dump their holdings of U.S. government debt. But we would not expect major holders to rush for the exit," said Capital Economics' Julian Jessop.

If a big owner of U.S. Treasury bonds, such as the Chinese government, sold off a big chunk of its holdings, then that would hurt the value of the dollar and the remainder of China's dollar investments. Jessop added that a meltdown in the U.S. economy resulting from a crash in the value of the dollar would hurt China. The U.S. and China are major trading partners.