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Yen gains in Asia as Ukraine crisis flares, Bank of Japan holds meeting

TOKYO--The yen rose in Asia Monday as tensions in Ukraine flared and the Bank of Japan (BoJ) starts a two-day meeting, with investors looking for signs of further monetary easing.

In Tokyo afternoon trade, the dollar fetched 103.12 yen, down from 103.24 yen in New York Friday afternoon.

The euro, which rose last week following the European Central Bank's upbeat outlook for the eurozone, fell to 143.11 yen from 143.31 yen, while it firmed slightly to US$1.3878 from US$1.3874.

Traders moved into the yen, seen as a safe-haven currency in times of turmoil, as fresh tensions erupted in Ukraine.

While further BoJ easing measures would tend to weaken the Japanese unit, few analysts expect the central bank to act after its meeting wraps up Tuesday.

“Since expectations among foreign investors are also low, it's unlikely that the dollar will fall wildly even if the bank stands pat on its policy,” a senior Tokyo bank dealer told Dow Jones Newswires.

But there is growing speculation that an April sales tax rise will force the BoJ to act later this year to counter a slowdown in consumer spending and the economy as a whole.

“The Bank of Japan will almost certainly maintain its current policy settings at the conclusion of the two-day March board meeting,” Capital Economics said.

The dollar was mostly stronger against other Asia-Pacific currencies.

It rose to 61.18 Indian rupees from 61.02 rupees on Friday, to 44.49 Philippine pesos from 44.46 pesos, to 1,066.30 South Korean won from 1,063.58 won, to 32.40 Thai baht from 32.28 baht, and to SG$1.2679 from SG$1.2643.

The greenback weakened to 11,365 Indonesian rupiah from 11,415 rupiah.

The Australian dollar eased to 90.23 U.S. cents from 90.85 cents, while the Chinese yuan bought 16.77 yen against 16.84 yen.

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