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Update: Euro steadies despite Greek worries

[LONDON] The euro regained a foothold in early deals in London on Monday, investors choosing to take some profit on two days of dramatic losses after the results of elections in Greece sent the single currency to an 11-year low.

The single currency fell as low as US$1.1098 after projections showed anti-austerity party Syriza won 149 seats in the 300-seat Greek parliament, setting Athens on a collision course with international lenders and potentially threatening its place in the euro.

However, it had recovered to trade higher on the day at US$1.1224 by 0748 GMT. Dealers and analysts in London said the most likely next move was still down but that the European Central Bank's announcement of outright money-printing last week had insulated European markets from the fallout of the Greek vote.

"I think on the day people will look to re-sell 1.1250/60 or less," said Stephen Gallo, European head of FX strategy with Bank of Montreal in London. "The fact that the ECB's QE programme has already been announced is positive for credit spreads and limits the damage on the euro. That and positioning were probably responsible for the bounce from the lows around US$1.11." The euro has lost 10 full cents against the dollar since the start of the year and, at US$1.11, more than 4 cents since the ECB's announcement last week.

It fell to as low as 130.160 yen, its lowest level in 1-1/2 years, before it bounced back to 131.500. Against sterling, it hit a seven-year low of 74.06 pence.

Market participants saw the risk that euro selling would pick up later in the day if Syriza reiterates a tough stance for negotiations with the "Troika" of the European Central Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the European Commission.

Such a scenario could trigger a test of US$1.10, where large options lay, according to several research notes. "The absolutely dominant view is that we are heading towards parity to the dollar, the only question is how fast," said a senior dealer with one large international bank in London.

"The only buyers are the short-term speculative players caught short at the wrong level."

Some analysts, however, said the long-term impact may be more nuanced as most investors expect Tsipras, at the end of the day, to work with the European Union and other international lenders. "Usually politicians say populist things before an election. So now the question is how much they are going to stick to the promises made to the Troika," said Ayako Sera, market strategist at Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Bank.

ECB board member Benoit Coeure said in a newspaper interview published on Monday that the European Central Bank would not take part in any debt cut for Greece. He also said the euro would have to stabilise at some stage.

"The market was largely anticipating a (Syriza) victory,"said Sebastien Galy, senior foreign exchange analyst at Societe Generale in New York. "At the moment, the market believes that if there is any (debt) restructuring it would only involve the official sector and for now, the possibility of Greece leaving the euro zone even with the incoming government is small," he added.

Among other major currencies, the Aussie sank as low as US$0.7850, its lowest since mid-2009, while the kiwi fell to a more than three-year trough of US$0.7407.

REUTERS