Euro edges up before crunch meeting on Greece

A cashier counts euro banknotes in Vilnius, Lithuania.
Ints Kalnins | Reuters

The euro inched higher on Monday ahead of a meeting of euro zone finance ministers that investors expect will find enough common ground to support Greece beyond its current bailout programme and keep it inside the currency bloc.

In a day weakened by the absence of U.S. investors due to a national holiday, the New Zealand dollar was the biggest mover on major currency markets, up almost 1 percent after a strong retail sales report.

The euro has gained steadily through a nervous month of deadlock between the new government in Athens and its international creditors in Europe and at the IMF.

That, and the relative calm on debt markets in Spain, Italy and Portugal, suggests euro zone leaders might be risking less in letting Greece leave the euro now than they would have done during a previous standoff in 2012.

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But at least for now, analysts seem more inclined to attribute the lack of a significant sell-off to confidence that ministers will find a way to satisfy the complicated political agendas on both sides.

"This can quickly turn sour for the euro if there is no deal today," said Susanne Galler, a strategist with Jefferies in London.

"The market consensus is for them to do a deal by the end of this week. But we think that if there's no deal today and the clock starts ticking then the euro will look increasingly vulnerable."

The euro gained a quarter of a percent against a broadly weaker dollar to trade at $1.1413. It was flat against the and 0.4 percent higher against Britain's pound.

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Analysts from one of the market's big four currency trading banks, Barclays, said there would be more volatility in store for the euro no matter the outcome. They said a Greek exit would be unambiguously negative for the euro zone.

"An agreement with significant concessions for Greece may raise the perception of risks in Spain, resulting in significantly greater downside risk for the euro," they said.

They also argue that a Greek deal with little relief for austerity or debt could potentially boost the euro in the near term and slow its descent in the coming months.

The dollar inched down 0.1 percent to 118.59 , from 118.70 at the end of last week and a one-month high of 120.48 set last Wednesday.

This week's Bank of Japan meeting is seen as unlikely to generate any new monetary easing, and positioning data showed speculators' net yen selling positions have shrunk to the lowest level since July.