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Euro slips after Italian lawmaker's talk of lira return

London

THE euro fell to a six-week low on Tuesday after a senior lawmaker in one of Italy's ruling parties said that most of the country's problems would be resolved if it re-adopted a national currency, triggering a broad market sell-off.

The euro also slumped against the safe-haven yen and Swiss franc, while the US dollar surged to a one-month high as investors piled in and sold riskier assets such as equities.

Markets are highly sensitive to Italian political developments after the country's coalition proposed a budget with a higher-than-expected deficit target, exacerbating tensions with other eurozone leaders and worrying investors who want Rome to bring its debt under control.

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The lawmaker, Claudio Borghi, later rowed back on the comments, while Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said that the euro was "unrenounceable".

But that failed to ease pressure on the single currency, which skidded as low as US$1.1505, its weakest since Aug 21. Against the yen, the euro lost almost one per cent to 130.71 before recovering some ground, and dropped 0.6 per cent versus the Swiss franc to 1.1313 francs.

"We are dealing with a war of words, with the euro on one side and Italy on the other . . . There's a lot of headline risk about," Credit Agricole head of G10 FX Strategy Valentin Marinov said. He did not expect the situation in Italy to weigh heavily on the euro in the medium term because there was "no real evidence of contagion" that would worry the European Central Bank and prompt it to postpone plans to end its stimulus programme.

The euro's weakness combined with a further push higher by the US dollar, which is regaining its stride despite investor positioning in the greenback looking stretched.

Most of the common currency's losses came after Mr Borghi, the economic head of the right-wing League party, said that Italy would enjoy more favourable economic conditions outside the eurozone.

Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio, who accuses European Union officials of deliberately upsetting financial markets with negative comments about Italy's budget plans, also unnerved investors by reiterating that it would not change its fiscal deficit targets. Even if the EU does not reject Italy's budget, it could still act as a hurdle for the euro, Commerzbank FX strategists said, especially as some analysts expect credit ratings agencies to downgrade Italy's government debt soon. REUTERS