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Thursday April 10, 2008 - 10:30:57 GMT
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FOREX News - Euro scales record highs vs dlr, stg before ECB

Thu Apr 10, 2008 6:19am EDT

(Recasts with euro peaks, changes byline)

By Toni Vorobyova

LONDON, April 10 (Reuters) - The euro hit a record high versus the dollar on Thursday on expectations that the European Central Bank will hold interest rates at 4 percent later in the session and signal it is not ready to cut any time soon.

The euro also scaled historic peaks versus sterling, with the Bank of England seen cutting rates at 1100 GMT to 5 percent.

The ECB decision is due at 1145 GMT, followed by a news conference with President Jean-Claude Trichet at 1230 GMT.

The ECB's inflation-focused stance contrasts with that of the U.S. Federal Reserve, which has slashed rates by 3 percent since September to 2.25 percent and is expected to move by at least another quarter point at the end of April.

As well as prospects for further unfavourable moves in yield differentials, the dollar came under pressure from a sell off in equity markets fuelled by concerns over the health of the U.S. banking sector.

"There is still uncertainty regarding (U.S.) economic activity and the Fed is likely to cut rates by 50 basis points at the end of the month, and today we have the decoupling of the monetary policy between the Fed and the BoE on the one hand, and the ECB on the other hand," said Carole Laulhere, currency strategist at Societe Generale.

"We are waiting for the ECB to stay unchanged this afternoon and we hope he (Trichet) will stay quite hawkish. We are long euro/dollars with a target of $1.61," she added. The euro rose as high as $1.5912 according to Reuters data, bringing its gains for 2008 so far to 9 percent <EUR=>.

It has also carved out similarly impressive year-to-date gains versus sterling, climbing to 80.29 pence <EURGBP=>.

EURO: $1.60 NEXT?

The Norwegian crown strengthened beyond 5 per dollar for the first time since early 1980s <NOK=>, bolstered by broad dollar weakness as well as by oil prices, which held near Wednesday's record highs CLc1.

The inflationary impact of high oil prices also boosted the case for a hawkish, inflation-fighting message from ECB.

"We can hardly expect anything from Trichet but another round of jawboning on inflation risks, particularly with oil spiking to new highs," Saxo Bank said in a research note, adding that a hawkish news conference could send the euro above $1.60.

The yen benefited from a broad pick up in Asian currencies after the Monetary Authority of Singapore re-centred the Singapore dollar's trade-weighted band pushing up the currency by as much as 1.4 percent. <SGD=>

The move dragged the dollar below the psychologically important 7.0 Chinese yuan level <CNY=CFXS>, while the yen rose 1.4 percent on the day to 100.35 per dollar <JPY=>.

The euro fell 1 percent to 159.42 yen <EURJPY=>.

A fall in equity markets also helped the low-yielding Japanese currency as well as the safe-haven Swiss franc <CHF=>.

European shares fell 1.4 percent , as financials were hurt by news that Lehman Brothers had liquidated three investment funds hit by "market disruptions" [ID:nL10875061].

Apart from the ECB and BoE rate decisions, investors were also cautious before a meeting of the Group of Seven economic powers later this week which will try to tackle the global financial crisis.

(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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