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Tuesday April 15, 2008 - 20:13:25 GMT
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FOREX NEWS-Dollar cheered by U.S. manufacturing, inflation data

Tue Apr 15, 2008 4:09pm EDT

(Updates prices, adds quote, changes byline)

By Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss

NEW YORK, April 15 (Reuters) - The dollar posted gains on Tuesday, boosted by surprisingly robust U.S. inflation and manufacturing data, which suggested the Federal Reserve may be less aggressive in cutting interest rates.

A separate Treasury report showing foreign investors increased purchases of dollar-denominated assets in February eased fears that the credit crisis would dry up U.S. capital inflows.

"The New York manufacturing data, in particular, leaves us with the hope that things are not that bad in the U.S. economy," said Matthew Strauss, senior currency strategist, at RBC Capital Markets in Toronto.

(For a wrapup of Tuesday's economic data, click on [ID:nN15448941])

In late afternoon trade, the euro fell 0.4 percent against the dollar to $1.5778 <EUR=>, having retreated from an overnight peak of $1.5875. Last week, it rose to $1.5912, the highest level since its 1999 launch.

As the euro broke below $1.58, investors covered their short positions against the dollar, pushing the currency pair lower.

Strauss said there is still the possibility that euro/dollar could break above $1.60, but the momentum has stalled and markets could see a sustained turnaround in the dollar by the second half of the year.

Against the yen, the dollar traded at 101.58 yen <JPY=>, off a session peak of 101.79 yen, but still up 0.5 percent.

The dollar shed 10.5 percent against the euro last year and has weakened over 8 percent so far in 2008, a slide driven by a Fed that has cut benchmark interest rates by 3 percentage points since the onset of a housing-led credit crunch in August.

Worries about the U.S. economy, which many fear may already be in recession, and more banking sector losses have markets expecting another rate cut this month, though analysts are betting on a modest quarter-point cut to 2 percent FEDWATCH.

Labor Department data on Tuesday showing U.S. producer prices advanced by a more-than-expected 1.1 percent in March bolstered that view.


Despite the dollar's intraday gains, analysts said markets remain wary of buying the currency, as fears of a sharper U.S. economic slowdown and more banking losses keep global investors skittish about betting to heavily on the greenback.

European monetary policy-makers' continued focus on inflation threats also helped limit euro losses.

Unlike the Fed, the European Central Bank has held benchmark rates at 4 percent for more than a year, and officials have shown little appetite for near-term cuts.

For now, foreign dollar demand appears to be holding up, though. The U.S. Treasury's latest TICS report, which tracks capital flows into and out of the United States, showed overseas investors in February were net buyers of long-term U.S. assets to the tune of $72.5 billion.

That beat the prior month's $57.1 billion inflow and was enough to cover the month's $62.3 billion trade deficit.

Analysts said the data suggests recent distress in funding markets has yet to weaken foreign appetite for U.S. assets.

On Wednesday, data on U.S. consumer prices for March will be released and markets are expecting a core CPI reading of 0.2 percent for the month and 2.4 percent year-on-year, which is above the Fed's comfort zone.

"While the Fed remains concerned over the elevated core inflation rate, it expects the pace of inflation to moderate in the months ahead as increased slack develops in the labor and product markets," said Calyon in a research note.

Calyon continues to favor the prospect of a half-percentage-point easing at the April Fed meeting. (Additional reporting by Steven C. Johnson; editing by Gary Crosse)

© 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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