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Tuesday February 26, 2008 - 12:08:10 GMT
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FOREX NEWS - Euro rises as German data dampens rate cut view

By Simon Falush

LONDON, Feb 26 (Reuters) - The euro hit a three-week high versus the dollar and a six-week peak against the yen on Tuesday after a forecast-beating German Ifo business sentiment survey dampened the case for near-term euro zone interest rate cuts.

The February Ifo index rose to 104.1 from January's 103.4, beating even the highest forecast in a Reuters poll and easing concerns about the health of the euro zone's biggest economy.

Ifo's president Hans-Werner Sinn said it would be premature for the ECB to cut rates yet, and markets trimmed expectations for a move by end-June to 1-in-5 from 1-in-3 before the data. Such a cut was almost fully priced in at the start of last week FEIM8.

"(The euro's strength) is mainly on the back of the Ifo, it has decreased the chances of near-term ECB easing as the broad prospects for the euro zone economy aren't looking as dire as they were," said David Pais, currency strategist at Citi.

By 1136 GMT, the euro had risen as high as $1.4878, its highest since Feb. 1 <EUR=>. Against the yen the euro touched its highest since mid January at 160.58 yen <EURJPY=>.


Overall risk appetite was well supported as European equity markets rose on positive news from the financial sector.

Standard & Poor's on Monday affirmed the top-notch credit rating of U.S. bond insurer MBIA Inc (MBI.N: Quote, Profile, Research), easing some concerns about ailing credit markets.

The possibility of an imminent rescue plan for bond insurer Ambac Financial Group Inc (ABK.N: Quote, Profile, Research) also helped improve investor confidence.

Concern that financial firms may suffer greater losses if the bond insurers lose their top-notch ratings, leading to ratings downgrades on the fixed-income securities they back, have kept investors on edge since the start of the year.

But the high-yielding Australian and New Zealand dollars failed to benefit much from the improved risk appetite.

The kiwi was down 0.2 percent at US$0.8092, as investors took profits on its rally to 23-year post-float peaks of around US$0.8150 earlier in the session <NZD=>. The Aussie was a touch firmer at US$0.9279 <AUD=>.

"The news we've had on the monolines has been risk appetite-friendly, but commodities are coming back a little bit from their recent highs so it's a slightly mixed picture there as far as high yielders are concerned," said Ian Stannard, senior foreign exchange strategist at BNP Paribas.

Gold was trading more than $20 below last week's record highs <XAU=>.

U.S. January producer price inflation data is scheduled for 1330 GMT, with the market will be watched for clues about how rising inflation could affect the economy.

"While in the end (a high PPI number) would limit the scope for the Fed to cut rates, we believe that such outcome would be perceived as USD negative due the negative impact on all U.S. assets: equities, bonds as well as real estate," said Dresdner Kleinwort in a note to clients.

Tuesday's calendar also clues consumer confidence for February at 1500 GMT and Federal Reserve Vice Chairman Donald Kohn's speech on the domestic economy and monetary policy at 1715 GMT. (Editing by David Christian-Edwards)

© Reuters 2008 All rights reserved


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