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20.12.2010 11:21

European focus: the euro is under pressure.

The euro weakened to a two-week low against the dollar and the yen on speculation European nations will struggle to raise funds after rating companies downgraded the credit ratings of countries in the region.

The single currency fell versus 14 of 16 major counterparts as the European Central Bank warned of “concerns” about Irish legislation to fix its banking system. The Swiss franc appreciated to a record against the euro. South Korea’s won touched a three-week low as the country conducted artillery drills near its disputed western sea border.

“Sentiment is clearly bearish for the euro,” said Stephan Maier, a foreign-exchange strategist at UniCredit SpA in Milan. “The ratings risk is clearly pointing to still weaker ratings in the euro periphery. We expect as well the final reading of the third-quarter U.S. GDP so this will favour the dollar.”

The euro slipped 0.2 percent to $1.3167 as of 8:03 a.m. in London, after declining to $1.3125, the weakest since Dec. 2. The euro fell 0.3 percent to 110.44 yen from 110.77 yen, after sliding to 110.18 yen, the lowest since Dec. 7. The U.S. currency traded at 83.84 yen from 83.98 yen.

Moody’s lowered Ireland’s credit rating by five levels to Baa1 on Dec. 17, the day after it placed Greece on review for possible downgrade. Standard & Poor’s put Belgium on negative watch last week.

The cost to insure French government debt trebled this year to about 102 basis points on Dec. 17, approaching the record 105 basis points reached on Nov. 30, according to data provider CMA.

Credit-default swaps tied to the French bonds imply a rating of Baa1, seven steps below its actual top ranking of Aaa at Moody’s, according to the New York-based firm’s capital markets research group.

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