CURRENCY : Dollar Soars Against Yen to Highest Level in 2 1/2 Years

From Times Wire Services

The dollar climbed Monday to its highest levels in more than two years against the Japanese yen, which was pushed down by fresh worries about the nation's economy.

The dollar also rose against most major currencies despite reported intervention by the Federal Reserve to sell the U.S. currency to stem its advance.

Foreign exchange traders said there was moderate buying of dollars in the wake of Friday's buoyant U.S. employment figures, which showed more job growth than had been expected.

"It was just a slow sort of bid to the dollar," said Jeff Mondschein, manager of foreign exchange at Continental Illinois National Bank & Trust Co. in Chicago.

The dollar would have risen more, dealers said, but for anxiety that the West German central bank would intervene if the exchange rate rose much above 1.71 marks. The dollar closed at 1.7110 West German marks in Europe, up from 1.7040 marks late Friday. By the end of trading in New York, the dollar had edged up to 1.7135 marks from 1.7025 marks late Friday.

In Tokyo, where the business day ends as Europe's begins, the dollar climbed to 152.00 yen, its highest level there since it reached 152.35 yen on July 22, 1987. In London, the dollar closed at 152.36 yen, up from 151.32 yen on Friday. In New York trading, the dollar extended its advance to 152.63 yen, up from 151.27 yen late Friday.

The dollar has risen steadily for the past three weeks despite repeated attempts by the Bank of Japan and other central banks to halt it by selling the U.S. currency.

The volatile Tokyo stock market, where share prices have fallen sharply this year, and worries about Japanese interest rates and political instability have combined to weaken the yen.

The U.S. currency also gained against the British pound. The pound fell to $1.6100 in London, down from Friday's $1.6183. That was the pound's lowest close against the dollar since Jan. 3, when it stood at $1.6080. The pound had traded as high as $1.7145 on Feb. 22.

Later, in New York, a pound fetched $1.6115, down from $1.6170 late Friday.

On Friday, the pound lost nearly 2.5 cents amid anxiety over recent demonstrations against a new tax imposed by city halls across Britain. In addition, opinion polls show the popularity of the Conservative government and of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher is at an all-time low as inflation rises and interest rates remain high.

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