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Thursday April 3, 2008 - 11:57:10 GMT
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FOREX NEWS-Dollar climbs, euro slides on weak sales data

Thu Apr 3, 2008 7:50am EDT

(Changes byline, updates prices, adds quotes)

By Naomi Tajitsu

LONDON, April 3 (Reuters) - The dollar rose broadly on Thursday, hitting a three-week high against the yen, as a recent run of firmer than expected U.S. data suggested interest rates may not need to be slashed as much as previously thought.

Dollar gains versus the euro accelerated after euro zone retail sales unexpectedly fell 0.5 percent on the month in February, suggesting that signs of weakening economic growth may be eating into consumer spending in the bloc. [ID:nL03186217]

Analysts said dollar sentiment has been recovering since a massive writedown by Swiss bank UBS raised hopes its bad news was out in the open and U.S. investment bank Lehman Brothers successfully raised $4 billion to shore up its finances.

"There's a little bit of a feelgood factor returning to the market," said David Pais, currency strategist at Citigroup, while adding that the dollar's recovery was largely due to an adjustment in overstretched short positions in the currency.

Many in the market are waiting for U.S. jobs-related data later in the day and on Friday, after Wednesday's ADP national employment report showed the private sector added 8,000 jobs against forecasts for a 48,000 loss.

By 1120 GMT, the euro had tumbled 0.9 percent to $1.5540 <EUR=>, moving further away from record peaks above $1.59 touched last month.

The dollar was up 0.5 percent at 102.75 yen <JPY=>, and more than a full percent at 1.0190 Swiss francs <CHF=>.

Sterling fell 0.3 percent to $1.9820 <GBP=>, struggling after data showed the UK service sector slowed more than expected, adding to pressure on the Bank of England to cut interest rates even as inflation creeps higher. [ID:nL03090346]


Investors pushed the dollar higher across the board as the market has begun to rule out a big Federal Reserve rate cut this month despite comments from Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke that the United States may fall into recession in the first half of the year.

Markets are now pricing in just a 10 percent chance of a half percentage point U.S. rate cut this month -- down from as much as 62 percent last Friday FEDWATCH.

The dollar also continued to be bought by investors liquidating positions in oil, gold and other commodities.

"Bernanke was not exactly upbeat on the economy at all ... (but) he did not really offer anything more pessimistic than the market expected," said Geoffrey Yu, currency strategist at UBS in Zurich.

"The deterioration in the data has eased a bit, it's still falling, but it's not collapsing ... And the commodities sell off has (also) had quite an impact on dollar strength as funds have liquidated their holdings."

Traders are now eyeing the U.S. Institute for Supply Management's non-manufacturing index at 1400 GMT. Its employment component, together with the weekly jobless claims at 1230 GMT will provide the last steer on the likely outcome of Friday's key non-farm payrolls report.

It is expected to show the economy shed jobs in March for a third straight month, but some analysts see scope for an upside surprise after the ADP report.

The Fed has cut its benchmark interest rate since September by three full points to 2.25 percent, while the European Central Bank has held rates firm at 4 percent to fend off euro zone inflation, which hit a record high in March.

ECB Governing Council member Klaus Liebscher kept up the bank's anti-inflation rhetoric, saying earlier on Thursday that euro zone inflation was worryingly high and was likely to remain elevated for the foreseeable future.

Dutch central bank Governor Nout Wellink, who sits on the ECB's governing board, seconded that view on Thursday, saying that record high inflation was a serious concerns and risks sparking a wage-price spiral despite looming risks to growth. (Editing by Mike Peacock)

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