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Update: Euro hits 11-year low as Greek leftists sweep to power
[TOKYO/WELLINGTON] The euro hit an 11-year low versus the U.S. dollar on Monday as Greece's anti-austerity Syriza party swept to victory in a snap election, putting Athens on a collision course with international lenders.
The single currency dropped to US$1.1098, a level not seen since September 2003, before steadying around US$1.1180, as official projections showed Syriza was set to win 149 seats in the 300-seat parliament.
While Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras fell just short of an overall majority, he is set to lead the first euro zone government that could get in a high-stakes standoff with European lenders over austerity measures.
The euro fell to as low as 130.160 yen, its lowest level in 1-1/2 years, before it bounced back to 131.500. The common currency also dropped against the sterling, hitting 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" comprising 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.
But some analysts also 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 populistic 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.
Tsipras is expected to hold coalition talks on Monday with the small Independent Greeks party which, like Syriza, opposes Greece's bailout deal with the European Union and International Monetary Fund. "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.
The euro also remained on the defensive after Thursday's announcement of quantitative easing by the ECB.
It has sold off dramatically from US$1.21 at the start of the year and lost more then 3 per cent against the U.S. dollar last week, in the wake of aggressive asset-buying measures announced by the ECB to shore up the region's struggling economy.
Losses in the single currency provided a broad boost to the U.S. dollar, with dollar index rising to as high as 95.331, not far from an 11-year high of 95.481 hit on Friday.
Against the yen, which benefitted from safe-haven flows after Greek election, the dollar stood little changed at 117.64 yen.
The Aussie sank as low as US$0.7850, its lowest since mid-2009, while the kiwi fell to more than three-year trough of US$0.7407.