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FOREX-Dollar weakens after another surprise Fed rate cut

By Stanley White

* Graphic: World FX rates in 2020 https://tmsnrt.rs/2RBWI5E

* Dollar falls early in Asia trade

* Central banks rushing to restore confidence in markets

* Investors fret economic impact of coronavirus

By Stanley White

TOKYO, March 16 (Reuters) - The dollar fell against a broad range of currencies on Monday after the U.S. Federal Reserve made another surprise interest rate cut and major central banks took steps to relieve a shortage of dollars in financial markets.

The U.S. Federal Reserve cut rates to a target range of 0% to 0.25% and said it would expand its balance sheet by at least $700 billion in coming weeks.

Five other central banks also cut pricing on their swap lines to make it easier to provide dollars to their financial institutions facing stress in credit markets.

The moves come as policymakers respond to a brutal months-long sell-off in financial markets due to worries about the economic impact of the global spread of the coronavirus.

"It's a modest negative reaction for the U.S. dollar. The Fed moved a little sooner and a little more aggressive that some thought," said Ray Attrill, head of FX strategy at National Australia Bank in Sydney.

"This cannot prevent the economic fallout from social distancing (used to slow the coronavirus). That will require some fiscal spending and something from the government to make sure small companies are funded."

The dollar fell 1.5% to 106.35 yen early on Monday in Asia in reaction to the Fed's move, which was announced on Sunday evening U.S. time.

The greenback also fell 0.9% to $1.2405 per British pound .

Against the euro, the dollar slid 0.3% to $1.1153.

The dollar fell 0.3% to 0.9507 Swiss franc.

The Fed, the Bank of Canada, European Central Bank, the Bank of England, the Bank of Japan (BOJ) and Swiss National Bank also agreed to offer three-month credit in U.S. dollars on a regular basis and at a rate cheaper than usual.

The move was designed to bring down the price banks and companies pay to access U.S. dollars, which has surged in recent weeks as a coronavirus pandemic spooked investors.

The Fed had already cut interest rates by half a percentage point on March 3 at an emergency meeting, the first emergency cut since the financial crisis in 2008, but that move failed to stem market volatility.

The Fed's move on Sunday U.S. time was likely aimed at staving off what had the potential to be another volatile week in financial markets, analysts say.

However, U.S. stock futures plunged after the rate cut, suggesting investors remain nervous.

Later on Monday, China will release several important economic indicators that should reveal the scale of damage caused by coronavirus, which emerged in the central Chinese province of Hubei late last year.

The Fed was originally scheduled to announce a policy decision on Wednesday, and the BOJ holds a two-day meeting ending Thursday, and the pressure has been on central banks to do something to restore calm to financial markets.

Worries that travel restrictions and factory closures aimed at containing the coronavirus will cause a global recession have sent equities into a tailspin.

In the offshore market, the yuan edged up slightly to 7.0131 per dollar as traders awaited key Chinese economic data.

The Reserve Bank of New Zealand joined the global easing race with a cut of 75 basis points to its rates, while the Reserve Bank of Australia added A$5.9 billion to the banking system through market repo operations.

The New Zealand dollar fell 0.2% to $0.6045, while the Australian dollar fell 0.38% o $0.6164. (Reporting by Stanley White Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Sam Holmes)