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Wednesday February 27, 2008 - 12:13:30 GMT

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FOREX NEWS -Little respite seen for record-low dollar for now

By Toni Vorobyova

LONDON, Feb 27 (Reuters) - The dollar slid to an all-time low versus a basket of currencies on Wednesday after weak U.S. data and comments from a top Federal Reserve official cemented views for more U.S. rate cuts.

The euro vaulted above the psychological $1.50 mark for the first time in its 9-year history. The Swiss franc also rose to a record peak against the U.S. currency, while the New Zealand dollar touched levels not seen it was free-floated in 1985.

Analysts reckoned that Wednesday's calendar was unlikely to bring any respite to the dollar, with January durable goods orders and new home sales seen easing versus the previous month and Fed chairman Ben Bernanke seen leaving the door open for further rate cuts in his semi-annual monetary policy report before the House Financial Services Committee from 1500 GMT.

"The overnight explosion has been quite aggressive ... and the question is what's going to arrest the upward momentum (in the euro) and at the moment it would probably require some better U.S. data," said Jeremy Stretch, strategist at Rabobank.

"That doesn't seem to be happening any time soon, and it's going to be pretty unlikely that Bernanke is going to signal anything other than continued pre-emptive action from the Fed. In the short-term it seems that ... the path of least resistance is to the topside."

The euro rose as high as $1.5087 according to Reuters data, before paring gains to stand at $1.5049 by 1058 GMT <EUR=>.

The dollar index fell to a record low of 74.226 .DXY, and the greenback also plumbed a historic trough of 1.0668 Swiss francs <CHF=>.

Rallying commodity prices helped drive units like the Australian dollar <AUD=>, which climbed 0.6 percent to $0.9397, just short of its 24-year peak of $0.9401 set last November.

The New Zealand dollar jumped to a fresh 23-year post-float peak of $0.8213 <NZD=>.



Fed Vice Chairman Donald Kohn said on Tuesday a weakened U.S. economy was a bigger worry than higher inflation, suggesting a willingness for more rates cuts [ID:nN26364877].

His comments followed data showing the outlook for U.S. consumers falling to a 17-year low in February, while producer prices rose at their fastest pace in more than 26 years last month, fuelling concerns about stagflation in the world's largest economy. [ID:nN26322234]

"Once again the data supports the mounting evidence of an economic recession and there is little chance of any turnaround anytime soon," Calyon said in a research note.

In contrast to the gloomy U.S. data, recent economic reports on the euro zone were better than expected.

On Tuesday, a strong reading of German corporate sentiment cooled expectations the European Central Bank could cut interest rates in the near term from 4 percent, helping lift the euro.

Markets have fully priced in another 50 basis point cut to the 3.0 percent Fed funds rate next month, but have discounted only two 25 basis points worth of cuts by the ECB for this year.

In the medium term though, with so much bad economic news and such steep rate cuts already priced in for the United States, analysts say the euro could prove vulnerable once the ECB starts giving more weight to slowing growth than to rising inflationary pressures.

Such lofty euro levels could also cause concern for European politicians as they make it harder for firms to compete on price in the export market.

French budget minister Eric Woerth said on Wednesday that the single currency is at very high level versus the dollar, which would help importers but handicap exporters.

The German economy ministry also highlighted a potential negative impact on exports, but added that Germany should remain in robust shape despite euro/dollar moves.

This sentiment was echoed by the head of Germany's BGA exporters association, Anton Boerner, who told Reuters there was no need for panic over the exchange rate. (editing by David Christian-Edwards)



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