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Chase Bank Limits Cash Withdrawals, Bans International... Before you read this report, remember to sign up to for 100% free stock alerts Chase Bank has moved to limit cash withdrawals while banning business customers from sending...

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Richemont chairman Johann Rupert to take 'grey gap... Billionaire 62-year-old to take 12 months off from Cartier and Montblanc luxury goods groupRichemont's chairman and founder Johann Rupert is to take a year off from September, leaving management of the...

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Cambodia: aftermath of fatal shoe factory collapse... Workers clear rubble following the collapse of a shoe factory in Kampong Speu, Cambodia, on Thursday

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Spate of recent shock departures by 50-something CEOs While the rising financial rewards of running a modern multinational have been well publicised, executive recruiters say the pressures of the job have also been ratcheted upOn approaching his 60th birthday...

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UK Uncut loses legal challenge over Goldman Sachs tax... While judge agreed the deal was 'not a glorious episode in the history of the Revenue', he ruled it was not unlawfulCampaign group UK Uncut Legal Action has lost its high court challenge over the legality...

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IMF frets on sidelines while global economic divides widen

Category : Business

A ‘three-speed’ world is emerging, and the International Monetary Fund fears the consequences

As crisis-weary finance ministers and central bank governors from around the world kick back in Washington this week, on the sidelines of the twice-yearly International Monetary Fund meetings, they could be excused for feeling a tinge of optimism in the spring sunshine.

In the US, the bombed-out housing market is bouncing back; the stock market has hit fresh all-time highs; and there are hints that the Federal Reserve is starting to think about slowing the pace of its drastic quantitative easing programme. The latest data on consumer spending last week raised questions about how solid the recovery is – but there is hope.

Japan’s experiment with its radical new policy of Abenomics – the attack on deflation launched by new prime minister Shinzo Abe – may be in its early stages, but at least the country’s new policymakers have a plan. And even in the eurozone, where keeping the single currency afloat still demands relentless wrangling, the mood of imminent crisis has abated since the bailout with Cyprus was agreed.

But in a scene-setting speech in New York last week, IMF managing director Christine Lagarde stressed the deep divisions that remain in what she described as a “three-speed” global economy.

Lagarde placed emerging economies at the front of the pack, ahead of a middling group – including the US – that has begun to rebuild its battered economies; while Japan and Europe were trailing behind. She also warned that the world’s biggest banks remained a menace to financial stability, particularly in recession-hit Europe.

Some of these differences, between the leaders and the laggards, are likely to surface in the talks this week among the IMF’s 188 member countries, as central banks fret about their “exit strategy” from the emergency policies they have used to try to stimulate demand since the Great Recession.

A chapter of the IMF’s latest financial stability report, released to coincide with the build-up to the meetings, warns that long periods with ultra-low interest rates and so-called “unconventional” monetary policy, such as quantitative easing, can spawn serious long-term problems, even if they succeed in boosting short-term growth.

At home, “zombie” firms and households that would have gone bust can be propped up by super-cheap borrowing – only to face an even greater risk of collapse when interest rates finally go up.

Meanwhile, some of the cheap money created in the US, Japan and the UK will leak overseas, as investors seek better returns elsewhere. Emerging economies in Asia and Latin America are increasingly concerned about speculative investment flows pumping up their currencies and inflating asset bubbles.

“Despite their positive short-term effects for banks, these central bank policies are associated with risks that are likely to increase the longer the policies are maintained,” the IMF warned.

Depreciation is another welcome by-product of the hyperactive central banks’ policies, and there will also be a debate in Washington about the risks of a beggar-my-neighbour battle to create the cheapest currency.

Even before Japan’s dramatic expansion of its bond-buying programme, the sharp devaluation in the yen over the past six months had raised concerns in Europe that a strong euro will harm competitiveness.

Danny Gabay, of City consultancy Fathom, said an appreciating euro would drive Europe’s economies deeper into recession and put the region’s fragile banks at greater risk. “Do they think the banking system that is already under stress from high unemployment and non-performing loans can withstand a stronger euro too?”

Face-to-face talks, like those that take place at these IMF gatherings, can force policymakers to confront the consequences of their domestically motivated policies – but they are rarely persuaded to change their plans as a result. Sir Mervyn King, the outgoing Bank of England governor, is likely to repeat his frequently expressed fear that there remain deep, fundamental tensions in the world economy, between creditors and debtors, savers and spenders, which have never been tackled.

As he put it in a speech in New York in December: “The G20 in 2009 came together at the London Summit and agreed the easy part, which was stimulatory policies where every country could agree. But … since then … there has been no agreement on the need for working together to achieve some element of re-balancing the world economy.”

Instead of brokering such an agreement, which might involve creditor countries such as Germany and China agreeing to boost their demand, instead of relying solely on cutbacks in debtor countries to narrow the divide, the IMF has repeatedly been dragged into rubber-stamping botched bailouts and harsh austerity policies when tackling the eurozone sovereign debt crisis.

The IMF is due to reform its governance, including giving emerging economies such as China a stronger voice, but so far its board members have been unable to agree firm proposals. Meanwhile, it will stand ready to intevene whenever the next domino falls in the crisis that began more than five years ago.

Cyprus sell-off fears send gold price tumbling

Category : Business

Precious metal slides below $1,500 an ounce for the first time since July 2011 – a ‘make-or-break moment’, analysts say

The price of gold fell to its lowest level in more than 18 months on Friday night amid fears that sales of the precious metal forced on Cyprus by its desperate financial plight would lead to wholesale dumping by hard-pressed countries in the coming months.

At the end of a week dominated by the plight of the troubled Mediterranean island, gold slid below $1500 an ounce for the first time since July 2011 in anticipation that Cyprus would seek to raise €400m (£340m) by offloading a chunk of its reserves.

Share prices also fell on the major European bourses after the gathering of EU finance ministers in Dublin made it clear that there would be no increase to the €10bn earmarked for Cyprus – even though the expected cost of the bailout has been raised by €6bn to €23bn.

A Cyprus government spokesman said the increase would not lead to more money being taken from savers in the country’s banks.

Although both Portugal and Ireland were granted an additional seven years to pay back their loans as a reward for sticking to their austerity programmes, help for Cyprus will be limited to extra investment from Europe’s structural fund.

A spokesman for the German government said the contribution to Cyprus’s bailout would not change despite the deteriorating financial health of the country, but Angela Merkel’s government supported easier terms for Portugal – which tabled fresh measures to save more than €1bn from its budget – and Ireland.

Portugal’s prime minister, Pedro Passos Coelho, said tentative cuts had been outlined. “We have already presented to our partners some possibilities that will require further work next week when the Troika visits Portugal,” he said. “We have a [bailout] agreement with our partners and we need to stick to it.”

Most major European stock markets saw falls of more than 1%, with weak economic news from the US adding to the downward pressure on gold.

While Cyprus’s gold sale in itself is small, heavily indebted eurozone nations such as Italy and Portugal could also find themselves under increasing pressure to put their bullion reserves to work.

“If Cyprus can break the gold market, then [there are] many reasons to be worried, with Slovenia, Hungary, Portugal, Spain and Italy in line,” Milko Markov, an investment analyst at SK Hart Management, said. “It is a make-or-break moment for gold … if the market can’t handle the reallocation and Cyprus, then there is really a need for a bear market.”

David Owen, chief European economist at investment bank Jefferies, said: “As with Greece, we should not be under any illusion that we have seen the last of the Troika warning about Cyprus’s debt dynamics. The draft EC report [that suggested another €6bn from Cyprus] saw as a worst case scenario Cypriot GDP falling by around 15% in the next two years before output stabilises. However, Greek GDP has now fallen for three years since its bailout, to date by around 20%, with forward looking indicators still pointing down.”

Figures released on Friday showed that European industrial production rose by 0.4% in February, but analysts said the outlook remained bleak.

David Brown, of New View Economics said: “Annual growth remains in deep negative territory pulled down by severe recession forces sweeping through the eurozone. ECB hopes that the eurozone economy will pick up later this year are simply wishful thinking while a large part of the eurozone economy is suffering such serious austerity and economic sentiment remains so vulnerable.”

Bid for Douwe Egberts coffee company

Category : Business, World News

The Dutch maker of Douwe Egberts coffee, DE Master Blenders, agrees a 7.5bn-euro takeover offer from a German private consortium.

Read more here: Bid for Douwe Egberts coffee company

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AXA (AXAHY: OTCQX International Premier) | AXA Financial signs closed MONY portfolio transaction with Protective for USD 1.06 billion

Category : Stocks, World News

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AXA Financial signs closed MONY portfolio transaction with Protective for USD 1.06 billion

- Transaction supports AXA’s capital optimization strategy and further growth in the US

- Total consideration of USD 1.06 billion / Euro 0.82 billion(1)

PR Newswire

NEW YORK, April 10, 2013

NEW YORK, April 10, 2013 /PRNewswire/ — AXA today announced it had entered definitive agreements with Protective Life Corporation (“Protective”) to sell MONY Life Insurance Company (“MONY”) and to reinsure an in-force book of life insurance policies written by MONY’s subsidiary MONY Life Insurance Company of America (“MLOA”) primarily prior to 2004. Under the terms of the agreements and assuming a closing date of October 1, 2013, the total cash consideration will be USD 1.06 billion (or Euro 0.82 billion). This consideration corresponds to implied 2012 multiples of 12x IFRS underlying earnings and 1.7x IFRS TNAV(2).

At closing, Protective has indicated that they plan to retain all positions associated with MONY’s customer service and administrative platform in Syracuse, NY, and will assume responsibility for servicing MONY and in-scope MLOA policies, as well as the servicing agreement with AXA Business Services. Policyholders under the MONY and MLOA policies that are subject to the transaction will see no changes in their terms or the level of service.

This transaction is in line with AXA’s active capital management strategy and in-force optimization initiatives. It allows us to generate financial resources from a closed portfolio and to remain focused on our national distribution structure and network of more than 5,000 financial professionals and more than 650 distribution firms partnering with us to further accelerate our profitable growth in our core businesses of financial protection, employer-sponsored products and retirement savings,” said Mark Pearson, President and Chief Executive Officer of AXA Financial.

Pearson added, “Protective has a proven history of successfully managing these types of closed book transactions, and this, together with their decision to retain the current MONY policy administration team, means that MONY and MLOA policyholders will continue to receive high levels of professional service.

The best way to create long-term sustainable value for all stakeholders is to stay focused on businesses that have the right combination of scale, competitive position, cash generation and growth prospects, and I am very grateful to our US teams for their excellent work negotiating this transaction and dedication to achieving the Ambition AXA objectives,” said Henri de Castries, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of AXA. “This transaction allows us to further grow our US business where we have been achieving good momentum while freeing up capital invested in closed portfolios to improve our financial flexibility and enable additional investment in high growth markets and businesses.


In 2004, AXA Financial(3) acquired The MONY Group Inc. and its subsidiaries, including MONY, MLOA, U.S. Financial Life Insurance Company and Advest(4) for USD 1.5 billion. The MONY Group Inc. was formed and went public in 1998 as part of the demutualization of the Mutual Life Insurance Company of New York, a mutual life insurance company founded in 1842. Subsequent to the acquisition, most new business was written out of other AXA Financial subsidiaries and MONY/MLOA were effectively placed in run-off, with the exception of some new business at MLOA, which is excluded from the transaction. Since 2005, MONY has generated USD 1.0 billion of cumulated statutory net income.

AXA is therefore disposing of a run-off mortality book primarily underwritten before 2004, with USD 10.5 billion (or Euro 8.0 billion) of statutory liabilities as of end of 2012. The book is comprised(5) of approximately 560,000 whole life, term life, Variable Universal Life and Universal Life policies; it also includes 61,000 annuity contracts and 42,000 Accident & Health and other policies.

The MLOA legal entity, as well as all the other MONY subsidiaries and distribution network, are outside the scope of the transaction. MLOA will continue to be used to write new business and will retain part of the transaction proceeds to fund its future growth.


Full year 2012 IFRS underlying earnings of disposed operations were ca. Euro 70 million.

Estimated impacts on AXA expected after the closing:

  • Exceptional capital loss below Euro 0.1 billion, which will be accounted for in Net Income, including a reduction in intangible assets of ca. Euro 0.4 billion;
  • +3 points on Solvency I ratio, which was 233% at December 31, 2012;
  • +4 points on Economic Solvency ratio, which was 206% at December 31, 2012;
  • -1 point on debt gearing, which was 26% at December 31, 2012.

This transaction is subject to customary closing conditions, including the receipt of regulatory approval, and is expected to close later this year.


AXA Financial is one of the premier U.S. organizations in financial protection and wealth management through its strong brands:

  • AXA Equitable Life Insurance Company
  • AXA Advisors, LLC
  • AllianceBernstein, L.P
  • AXA Distributors, LLC


In business since 1859, AXA Equitable Life Insurance Company (NY, NY) is a leading financial protection company and one of the nation’s premier providers of life insurance, annuity, and financial products and services. The company’s products and services are distributed to individuals and business owners through its retail distribution channel, AXA Advisors, LLC (member FINRA, SIPC) and to the financial services market through its wholesale distribution channel, AXA Distributors, LLC. In 2012, AXA Equitable generated Annual Premium Equivalent (APE) of Euro 1.2 billion (up 14% vs. 2011) and Life & Savings Underlying Earnings of Euro 0.5 billion (vs. Euro 0.2 billion in 2011).

Find AXA Equitable on Facebook and Twitter or visit our website at


The AXA Group is a worldwide leader in insurance and asset management, with 160,000 employees serving 102 million clients in 57 countries. In 2012, IFRS revenues amounted to Euro 90.1 billion and IFRS underlying earnings to Euro 4.3 billion. AXA had Euro 1,116 billion in assets under management as of December 31, 2012.

The AXA ordinary share is listed on compartment A of Euronext Paris under the ticker symbol CS (ISN FR 0000120628 – Bloomberg: CS FP – Reuters: AXAF.PA). AXA’s American Depository Share is also quoted on the OTC QX platform under the ticker symbol AXAHY.

The AXA Group is included in the main international SRI indexes, such as Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI) and FTSE4GOOD.

It is a founding member of the UN Environment Programme’s Finance Initiative (UNEP FI) Principles for Sustainable Insurance and a signatory of the UN Principles for Responsible Investment.

This press release is available on the AXA Group website


Certain statements contained herein are forward-looking statements including, but not limited to, statements that are predictions of or indicate future events, trends, plans or objectives. Undue reliance should not be placed on such statements because, by their nature, they are subject to known and unknown risks and uncertainties. Please refer to the section “Cautionary statements” in page 2 of AXA’s Document de Reference for the year ended December 31, 2012, for a description of certain important factors, risks and uncertainties that may affect AXA’s business. AXA undertakes no obligation to publicly update or revise any of these forward-looking statements, whether to reflect new information, future events or circumstances or otherwise.

(1) EUR 1 = USD 1.29, as of April 5, 2013

(2) IFRS Tangible Net Asset Value = IFRS shareholders’ equity + off balance sheet net unrealized capital gains and losses – net intangible assets

(3) AXA Financial is a holding company for AXA US Life & Savings and Asset Management activities

(4) In 2005, AXA sold MONY’s brokerage subsidiary Advest to Merrill Lynch for USD 0.4 billion

(5) As of December 31, 2011

SOURCE AXA Financial; AXA; AXA Equitable

Original post: AXA (AXAHY: OTCQX International Premier) | AXA Financial signs closed MONY portfolio transaction with Protective for USD 1.06 billion

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Slovenia’s prime minister tries to quell eurozone bailout rumours

Category : Business

Bratusek insists government committed to fixing country’s banks, struggling with bad debts as double-dip recession continues

Slovenia’s prime minister has attempted to quash speculation that she will become the next eurozone leader to seek a bailout, after an influential report warned that the country faces the threat of a “severe banking crisis”.

On an official trip to Brussels on Tuesday, Alenka Bratusek insisted that her government was committed to fixing Slovenia’s banks, which are struggling with bad debts as a double-dip recession continues.

Bratusek admitted that Slovenia did not face an easy task, but denied that it would be forced to seek international help.

“The new government is determined to do everything in its power to solve its problems by itself,” she told a press conference, after holding talks with European Commission president José Manuel Barroso. “We are aware that the banking sector is the number one problem in

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George Soros: Germany must choose between eurobonds or euro exit

Category : Business

It is wishful thinking to believe Germany is ready to choose either of Soros options

George Soros was wasting his time in going to Frankfurt to persuade Germans of the merits of eurobonds. Anything that smells remotely like the pooling of debts within the eurozone is off-limits for political debate in Germany, at least before the autumn election. German voters are not in a mood to guarantee jointly the debts of politically rudderless Italy.

And Soros’s second suggestion – that Germany itself should leave the eurozone – is also a non-starter. That would not be defined by chancellor Angela Merkel as a successful way to save the single currency.

Yet Soros’s speech should not be dismissed as an irrelevant ramble. It starts from two accurate premises. First, that the euro crisis is far from resolved, as recession and Cyprus demonstrate. Second, that Germany, whether it likes it or not, is in the driving seat and the present course amounts to “doing the minimum to hold the euro together”.

So Soros is right that something has to give to secure the euro’s survival. But it’s wishful thinking to believe Germany is ready to choose either of his options.

Eurozone crisis live: Spanish industrial slump deepens

Category : Business

Industrial output in Spain tumbled by 6.5% on an annual basis in February, as its prime minister appeals for more help from Europe

Originally posted here: Eurozone crisis live: Spanish industrial slump deepens

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Eurozone crisis: OECD warns Slovenia over bank debts – live

Category : Business

Cost of fixing Slovenia’s banking sector could be higher than estimated, warns OECD

Originally posted here: Eurozone crisis: OECD warns Slovenia over bank debts – live

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In France, Hollande is losing the battle for the eurozone | Jonathan Fenby

Category : Business

The president’s woes matter outside France. The failure of his anti-austerity pledge has left the balance of power with Germany

It is just 11 months since France elected François Hollande as its first Socialist president since 1995, spurring a wave of expectation on the European left that he would lead a pro-growth offensive against the cheerleaders of austerity. When his party and its allies won an absolute majority in the national assembly, it seemed Europe might be acquiring a real challenger to the Berlin-Brussels-London consensus.

It has not turned out like that, of course, evoking inevitable reminders of the last Socialist presidency, that of François Mitterrand. He came to office in 1981 on a reflationary platform declaring that there was nothing wrong with dreaming; the trouble was that waking up proved very jarring, as the Hollande administration is now discovering.

Growth under the would-be expansionary champion has not risen; in fact, it has positively slumped. Finance minister Pierre Moscovici says it might total 0.1% this year compared with the official forecast of 0.8%. The economy contracted by 0.3% in the last quarter of 2012. France will miss the target of reducing its deficit to 3% of national output in 2013. Unemployment is at 10.6%, and much higher among young people.

France has been running a monthly trade deficit of €5 billion and its falling competitiveness in costs is widely acknowledged. The structural reforms the economy needs have been held back by vested interests, largely in the public sector. Hollande is the first president of the Fifth Republic who is a creature of his own party rather than its progenitor, limiting his authority, while his attempt to be a “normal” president sits ill with the quasi-monarchical character of the post crafted by Charles de Gaulle for himself.

What’s more, the political crisis that has blown up over a former French budget minister’s secret foreign bank deposits, and the revelation by the Guardian and other newspapers that Hollande’s presidential campaign treasurer has off-shore accounts in the Cayman Islands, gave the head of state his toughest test to date, exacerbated by his harping on the evils of money.

Already scoring the lowest opinion poll ratings of any president (27% in the latest survey), Hollande seems caught in a downward spiral. In a big television interview last week, he was earnest and spoke sense, but offered nothing to galvanise a jaundiced nation. At the weekend, the Elysée palace played down talk of a government reshuffle, but the prime minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, cuts a lacklustre figure and some Socialists are calling for a referendum on public morality. The National Front’s Marine le Pen thunders about national decline and the hard-left leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon is mobilising his troops against “an intrinsically rotten system”.

Hollande’s woes matter outside France’s frontiers. The way the country is stumbling economically has shown just how hard it is for the European left to craft policies to redress the continent. Ed Miliband is likely to be rather more circumspect in his embrace of the beleaguered figure in the Elysée than he was in the first flush of Hollande-mania.

That leaves the field to belt-tighteners and bond markets. The chaotic outcome of the election in Italy reinforces this; having saved his country from a Greece-style crisis, the prophet of austerity, Mario Monti, trailed in fourth place, but the Socialists have been unable to form a government. The Five Star Movement of comedian Beppe Grillo is a recipe for chaos and, incredibly, Silvio Berlusconi still lurks on the fringes of power. The crisis of authority across southern Europe has been exacerbated by scandal allegations against the government in Spain while Greece remains mired in the morass of dodgy accounting. The terms of the bailout of Cyprus introduce a whole new level of uncertainty.

The wider effect of all this and, in particular, of Hollande’s troubles, is to reinforce Germany ahead of the federal elections in September. Berlin would prefer not to find itself in increasingly lonely leadership. But there is nothing Angela Merkel can do. Though her Christian Democrats have suffered setbacks at state elections and the polls show the CDU short of an overall majority – opening up the possibility of an alliance with the Greens against the Social Democrats – Merkel is personally popular. She enjoys support for her European policies. But the context is shifting.

Her country’s relationship with France has provided the backbone for the construction of Europe since the Franco-German friendship treaty signed by de Gaulle and Konrad Adenauer in 1963, but it is now in questionable shape. Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy did not get on well, but the Frenchman knew better than to get out of step with the chancellor in public. Paris and Berlin can agree on some things, such as their rejection of David Cameron’s plan for a new European treaty to pacify his euro-sceptics. But Hollande’s proclamation of a pro-growth agenda in his election campaign widened the division; the Germans regard the pace of French structural reforms as too slow and take a dim view of France’s sympathy for critics of austerity in southern Europe.

If Hollande had been able to set out a strong pro-growth stall there might have been an equilibrium between the two big continental states, even if this discomforted Merkel. But his weakness makes that a remote prospect, with no serious alternative policies in sight to those put forward by the chancellor, despite popular resentment at austerity and the inner contradiction of expecting spending reductions to breed growth.

This means that a two-speed eurozone, divided between northern and southern states, becomes more likely, with Brussels and Berlin incurring rising unpopularity in the latter as anti-austerity election results underline the EU’s democratic deficit. France risks being caught in the middle, its heart with the south, its economic prospects tied to the north, while Cameron’s search for a fudge on Europe increasingly irritates leaders with more serious matters on their minds. Europe’s politicians have been adept at kicking the can down the road in this crisis, but the nature of the road is changing, abetted by the storm swirling round the Elysée.

Jonathan Fenby is author of The General: Charles de Gaulle and the France He Saved

Yen slumps to new low as Bank of Japan unveils stimulus plan

Category : Business

Yen dips against major currencies after Bank of Japan buys government bonds in effort to beat deflation

The yen hit fresh lows against a host of major currencies on Monday, resuming its slide after the Bank of Japan lost no time in launching its new easing policy to underline its determination to beat deflation.

The central bank conducted its first government bond buying operations on Monday and said it will buy 1tn yen of bonds with maturities of between five and 10 years, and 200bn yen of bonds with maturities exceeding 10 years.

The dollar gained 1% to 98.54 yen after jumping more than a full yen to 98.85, its highest since June 2009, according to the EBS trading platform.

“After a big spurt in the morning, it started to stick a bit, but the possibility of it getting to 100 has increased,” said Soichiro Tsutsumi, a trader at eWarrant Japan Securities KK.

Last week, new BoJ governor Haruhiko Kuroda said the central bank would inject about $1.4tn into the economy in less than two years, a gamble that sent bond yields plummeting as prices rose on expectations of massive purchases of debt by the BoJ.

Analysts assume the flood of new money will be partly used by Japanese investors to buy higher yielding assets abroad, putting downward pressure on the yen.

JPMorgan analysts wrote in a client report that they had re-initiated a basket of yen shorts and were recommending the Australian dollar and Brazilian real as carry trades against the yen after the BoJ announced its aggressive stimulus plan.

The Australian dollar was up 0.2% against the yen at 102.12 yen after rallying to 102.32 yen, its highest since July 2008.

The euro climbed as far as 128.43 yen, its highest since January 2010, before pulling back to 127.90 yen, 0.9% higher than late US levels on Friday.

Some analysts said that a flare-up in the eurozone’s problems could ramp up risk aversion, prompting investors to buy “safe haven” yen and put a floor under its slide. Others said signs of cracks in the US economic recovery could weigh on the dollar.

“Getting to 100 yen against the dollar is just a matter of time

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