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Wednesday January 30, 2008 - 12:05:57 GMT
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FOREX NEWS-Dollar at two-week lows as Fed cut awaited

Wed Jan 30, 2008 6:37am EST

(Changes byline, updates prices, adds quotes)

By Toni Vorobyova

LONDON, Jan 30 (Reuters) - The dollar slipped to two-week lows against a basket of major currencies on Wednesday as investors awaited the U.S. interest rate decision later in the day, which will likely be another recession-fighting cut.

While the Federal Reserve strives to ward off a recession in the world's biggest economy, its aggressive monetary easing is putting pressure on dollar-pegged Gulf countries where inflation is a bigger concern.

Qatar is looking at possibly dropping its peg to the dollar, among policy options, the ruler's economic advisor Ibrahim al-Ibrahim told Reuters in an interview, and would prefer to make any change in concert with its Gulf partners.

That -- together with comments from former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan that the chance of a U.S. recession is at least 50 percent -- gave investors an excuse to sell dollars ahead of the 1915 GMT Fed decision.

"The big question is how much will they go by. They could well maintain the recent aggressive pace of rate cuts, given that we believe it's not so much equity market declines that's forcing the hand of the Fed but in fact the deterioration in the financial system," said Ian Stannard, senior foreign exchange strategist at BNP Paribas.

"If we do see an aggressive move from the Fed, then we could well see the dollar coming under a bit more downward pressure in the near term," he added.

Financial markets are currently attaching around a three-in-four chance to the Fed lowering its key fed funds policy rate 50 basis points to 3 percent. This would follow the emergency, inter-meeting cut of 75 basis points last week -- the biggest U.S. rate cut in quarter of a century.

By 1109 GMT, the euro was up a fifth of a percent at $1.4809, around two-week highs <EUR=>.

The dollar also fell to a two-week low against a basket of major currencies, at 75.355 .DXY.

It was down 0.22 percent at 106.84 yen <JPY=>.

Concern about the U.S. economy and renewed fears about the global banking sector after Swiss bank UBS unveiled $4 billion in new write-downs dampened risk appetite, pulling investment out of equities and into traditionally safer assets such as government bonds and funding currencies like the yen.

MAIN RISK: SMALLER CUT?

Economic data releases on Wednesday include the first estimate of fourth quarter U.S. growth and ADP Employer Services' snapshot of the U.S. private sector labour market in January, which some see as offering clues for Friday's official non-farm payrolls report.

The unravelling of the U.S. housing market and the subsequent malaise spread throughout global financial markets have tilted the U.S. economy toward recession, many analysts say, which has prompted the aggressive Fed action.

"In our view, the main risk scenario is that the Fed sours market sentiment with a 25 bp rate cut. Such an outcome risks sending equity markets lower and risk aversion higher -- though U.S. data Friday will need to confirm this bleaker assessment," Commerzbank Corporates & Markets said in a research note.

In contrast to the market expectations for U.S. interest rates, euro zone rate futures anticipate only 50 basis points of easing from the European Central Bank this year from 4 percent currently.

(Editing by Ruth Pitchford)

© Reuters 2007. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of Reuters content, including by caching, framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Reuters. Reuters and the Reuters sphere logo are registered trademarks and trademarks of the Reuters group of companies around the world.

 

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