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USD, Safe Havens Gain on Goldman Suit

By Omer Esiner of Travelex

The U.S. dollar rallied across the board as a sharp decline in investors' appetite for riskier assets saw capital flow back into traditional safe-haven assets like the greenback, U.S. government bonds and the Japanese yen. Friday's announcement from the Securities and Exchange Commission that it had filed fraud charges against banking giant Goldman Sachs sent shockwaves throughout financial markets and prompted a wave of profit-taking in riskier assets that had performed so well over recent months.

The pullback in equities and risk appetite was furthered by renewed concerns about sovereign credit risk in the euro zone. A meeting between the IMF, the European Central Bank and leaders of the EU, which was requested last week by Athens, was postponed due to a cloud of volcanic ash that has grinded air travel in Europe to a halt. Uncertainty over how any aid package will be applied and whether Germany will veto assistance for Greece prompted a widening of credit spreads between Greek and German bonds, a clear indication of investors' nervousness.

Other risk assets like commodities and currencies, like the AUD, NZD and CAD, who depend on global demand for resources, came under sharp selling pressure as well. Crude oil slipped by nearly $2.50/barrel to a three-week low, which sapped much of the Canadian dollar's recent strength. A quiet data calendar will keep moves in equities and risk assets in the spotlight today. USD: The U.S. dollar rose to a one-week trade-weighted high overnight, broadly supported by a flood of safe-haven flows out of risk assets. The broad flight to safety was triggered by Friday's bombshell that was dropped by the SEC in its case against banking giant Goldman Sachs.

Goldman was charged with fraud by the SEC in connection with a debt deal involving subprime mortgages. While the story may have only limited implication to the longer-term outlook for currency markets, it did trigger profit-taking in equities, which had risen so sharply over recent months.

Global stock indices were trading at their highest levels since late 2008 and were largely seen as due for a correction anyway. The Goldman story may prove to be a catalyst for a longer-term pullback in stocks, which would keep risk appetite under pressure and continue to support the greenback.

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