The dollar, which sustained its sharpest one-day setback in more than 12 years on Monday, stabilized yesterday, making slight gains against nearly all major currencies.
Financial market analysts said the dollar's pause came as traders reconsidered their reaction to the announcement by the finance ministers of the United States, West Germany, Britain, Japan and France that they would coordinate efforts to push the dollar down.
Major corporations also stepped in to buy dollars as a hedge, analysts said, which helped to buoy the currency. Additionally, favorable economic news -- the report showing continuing low inflation in the United States -- and the belief that central banks were not intervening in the markets helped the dollar recover, they said.
Banking sources in Japan reported that the Bank of Japan intervened yesterday by selling $1 billion to shore up the yen. But U.S. analysts said there did not appear to have been any major intervention.
After fear and uncertainty about the course of the dollar ran through Wall Street on Monday, "people are gripping the sides of their seats, saying maybe it's not so bad," said Elizabeth A. Ginste, assistant vice president at Dean Witter Reynolds Inc. "Maybe we can live with this."
"The market has calmed itself a little," Ginste said, after traders on Monday "went through a lot of machinations to try to interpret the announcement" by the five finance ministers. "Some people are reevaluating the situation, seeing how other markets are."
The dollar, which had closed late Monday in New York at 225.825 yen, rose as high as 232.60 yen in Tokyo yesterday before closing at 230.10 yen. That was 5 percent below its Friday close and put the dollar at its lowest point against the yen since May 11, 1984. Trading was active in Japan yesterday in part because markets there were closed on Monday for a holiday.
The intentions of the central banks will be tested by the financial markets soon as traders scrutinize the actions of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and U.S. trade deficit figures scheduled for release on Friday, said Albert Soria, foreign exchange manager for Swiss Bank in New York.
"The markets are not sure what to do," Soria said. "It's possible the dollar could go back up" mainly because many people may have sold too many dollars on Monday in a fit of panic.
Statements by government officials here and abroad often conflict and add to uncertainty in the financial markets, Soria said.
In the next few days the dollar will stabilize, Soria said. However, volatility will increase later because "uncertainty is still in the market" on whether it is wise to hold dollars and whether central banks will intervene in the currency markets.
If the central banks intervened they would sell dollars and buy other currencies, increasing the supply of dollars and driving down its price.
Traders also are uncertain about whether the Federal Reserve Board will tighten its grip on the money supply to keep inflation under control in light of the inflationary effects of a decrease in the dollar's value. However, yesterday's report that consumer prices may be headed for the lowest annual increase since 1967 seemed to calm fears of Fed tightening, analysts said.
Some panic left Wall Street for Main Street as Americans planning vacations swamped foreign currency exchanges to buy British pounds, West German marks and French francs before it took more dollars to buy them.
"There are a lot of people buying now," said Bernard P. Zeng, manager of Deak-Perera at 18th and K streets NW. "There's a substantial number of people here. There are lines to the door. There are quite a few people who wish they had done this last week."
In New York, the dollar, compared with late rates Monday, closed at: 2.7155 West German marks, up from 2.6970; 2.2285 Swiss francs, up from 2.2240; 8.2950 French francs, up from 8.2350; and 1.3604 Canadian dollars, down from 1.3619. The British pound slipped to $1.4290 from $1.4488.
On the New York Commodity Exchange, gold bullion for current delivery rose $1.20 to close at $330.10 after rising nearly $10 on Monday.