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Monday March 3, 2008 - 12:04:07 GMT
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FOREX NEWS - Dollar notches up fifth day of record lows

By Toni Vorobyova

LONDON, March 3 (Reuters) - The dollar plumbed a record low against a basket of rival currencies for the fifth trading day in a row on Monday, weighed by concerns about U.S. economic health, while the yen rallied on rising risk aversion.

The move saw the dollar set historic lows versus the Swiss franc, come within one tick of Friday's record trough against the euro and break below the 103 yen mark for the first time in more than three years.

Data later in the session is expected to show the manufacturing sector slipping into contraction territory in February, with the Institute for Supply Management's index seen falling to a near-four year low of 48.0.

In contrast, euro zone data showing that annual inflation remained at a record high of 3.2 percent last month backed the argument that upwards price pressures could deter the European Central Bank from cutting interest rates in the near term.

"It's a semi-decoupling story where we have the U.S. data looking really worse and worse, and elsewhere the data is not weak enough to cause any dollar strengthening, while inflation is keeping the European Central Bank in an (on-hold) stance on rates," said John Hardy, FX strategist at Saxo Bank.

"All the fundamentals are there for keeping the move (in the euro) going for now on this big break above $1.50."

The dollar's trade-weighted index against six major currencies dropped to 73.445 .DXY, the lowest since it was created in 1973.

By 1113 GMT, the euro was steady at $1.5189 <EUR=>, having earlier stopped one tick short of a record high of $1.5238 hit last Friday, according to Reuters data.

International Monetary Fund director general Dominique Strauss-Kahn said the euro was overvalued, while both the yen and the yuan were undervalued.


The dollar fell to a record trough of 1.0308 francs <CHF=> and weakened more than one percent to a three-year low of 102.62 yen, closing in on the psychological 100 yen <JPY=> level last breached in late 1995.

The euro also weakened against the low-yielding currencies, hitting two-week lows at 155.95 yen <EURJPY=> and 1-1/2 year troughs at 1.5700 francs <EURCHF=>.

The yen and Swiss franc benefited as investors unwound some leveraged carry trades, in which funds are borrowed in those low-yielding currencies to buy higher-yielding assets.

Risk aversion rose as gold prices surged to a record high above $980 an ounce <XAU=>, while Asian and European equity markets sold off after losses on Wall Street on Friday.

The UBS FX risk index jumped to a six week high and Calyon's risk aversion barometer moved towards recent 4-year peaks.

"Weak data releases, a spate of negative financial sector news as well as ongoing concerns about U.S. bond insurers hit appetite for risky assets," Calyon said in a research note.

Billionaire investor Warren Buffett told CNBC on Monday that the deal to take over reinsurance of $800 billion municipal bonds is no longer on the table.

There was no respite for yen gains even after Japan's prime minister Yasuo Fukuda said that rapid FX moves are undesirable and that he is watching with great interest.

The dollar's tumble comes before central bank decisions this week that will highlight the differences in how major economies are handling the U.S. slowdown combined with the surge in commodities and inflation.

The Reserve Bank of Australia is expected to lift rates to a 12-year high of 7.25 percent from 7 percent, even as the Bank of Canada is seen cutting rates, while Britain, Japan, euro zone and New Zealand all leave policy on hold.

The Federal Reserve's decision is not due for another two weeks, but market pricing suggests it could slash overnight rates by another 75 basis points by the end of March to 2.25 percent. (Editing by David Christian-Edwards)

© Reuters 2008 All rights reserved


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