Dollar falls against yen after US data, BOJ decision

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The dollar fell sharply against the yen on Tuesday as weak U.S. retail sales data compounded investors' search for safety as oil tumbled and equity markets globally turned lower.

The yen was also boosted by the Bank of Japan's decision to leave interest rates unchanged.

Six weeks after shocking markets by cutting rates into negative territory, Governor Haruhiko Kuroda said the Bank of Japan would take time to look at the impact, but could move again before the cut had worked its way fully into the economy.

U.S. retail sales fell less than expected in February, but a sharp downward revision to January's sales reignited market concerns about the economy's growth prospects.

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"The yen was already strengthening, obviously it strengthened quite a bit overnight," said Vassili Serebriakov currency strategist at BNP Paribas in New York. The data "just added to the mood of risk aversion, which is what's helping the yen against the dollar."

While the yen has gained further since the rate cut in January, it drew some support from the absence of an explicit threat by the BOJ to lower rates again. The traditional safe-haven currency has also benefited from the fall in oil prices and equity markets.

The dollar was last down 0.61 percent to 113.10 .

Stocks had been on a rally since taking a beating to start the year. A gauge of global equity markets rose nearly 5 percent the last two weeks and was up almost 10 percent for the past four. That gain also benefited the dollar, which has moved in concert with risk assets for much of this year.

"We had a nice rally in risk, but now it's starting to push interest rate expectations higher," said Serebriakov. "Fed tightening expectations get repriced and then risk sentiment turns a bit more cautious."

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The Federal Reserve has said it expects to continue raising rates this year, after hiking in December for the first time in nearly a decade. Such a rise in interest rates makes the dollar more attractive to investors, but can also weigh on company balance sheets by hurting U.S. exports and profits for U.S. companies that do business overseas.

Sterling was the day's other big mover, down at least 0.9 percent against the euro and dollar after a Daily Telegraph poll showed the campaign in support of Britain leaving the European Union nosing in front in the run-up to a June referendum.

The euro was flat against the dollar at $1.1111.