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Thursday June 5, 2008 - 09:21:06 GMT
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FOREX NEWS-Dollar/yen hits 3-mo high, US rates seen steady

Thu Jun 5, 2008 4:51am EDT

(Changes dateline, byline, releads, adds comment, updates prices)

By Simon Falush

LONDON, June 5 (Reuters) - The dollar hit a three-month high versus the yen on Thursday boosted by a view U.S. interest rates have troughed, while investors awaited rate decisions by the European Central Bank and the Bank of England later in the day.

Federal Reserve Chief Ben Bernanke said on Wednesday rising inflation expectations were a "significant concern", a day after he gave a rare warning that a weak dollar was adding to price pressures, giving a boost to the U.S. currency.

"The Fed is less indifferent to the exchange rate now, and that is supportive for the dollar," said Adam Cole head of currency strategy at RBC Capital Markets.

"However I think that ahead of rate decisions from the ECB and the Bank of England and non-farm payrolls data (on Friday) there will be consolidation."

By 0838 GMT the dollar had hit its highest since late February against the Japanese currency at 106.18 yen <JPY=>, up 0.8 percent on the day.

The euro rose 0.7 percent to 163.70 yen <EURJPY=> while the yen hit a seven-month low against the Australian dollar of 101.45 yen <AUDJPY=>.

An early rise in European shares and an ongoing pullback in oil prices from a record high warmed demand for risky trades, putting the yen under selling pressure.

The yen tends to suffer when risk appetite grows as investors move into the carry trade where they sell the Japanese unit to fund purchases of higher yielding assets.

The euro was steady at $1.5421 <EUR=>, recovering from a three-week low of $1.5386 hit earlier in the session but stayed well off a record high of $1.6018 set in April according to Reuters data.

Wednesday's unexpectedly strong U.S. services and private-sector jobs data reinforced views the Fed could even raise interest rates later this year FEDWATCH, providing support to the dollar before a pivotal national payrolls report on Friday.

The euro, by contrast, has been pressured in recent weeks by a string of softer than expected data including a fall in May retail sales announced on Wednesday.

The ECB is seen keeping rates on hold at 4 percent on Thursday but a more gloomy outlook for the euro zone economy is compounding the monetary policy dilemma for the European Central Bank.

Investors will closely scrutinise comments from ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet for any move away from the hawkish stance he has maintained.

However analysts say there is likely to be little shift in Trichet's rhetoric as he is set to focus on consistently high inflation.

"The persistently hawkish message from the ECB is likely to remain in place until there are clear signs of an easing inflation pressure and that could still be some months away," said Calyon in a note to clients.

POUND PRESSURED

The pound fell against the dollar <GBP=> and euro <EURGBP=> after the Halifax UK House Price Index showed a larger than expected fall in May.

This will add to the policy dilemma for the Bank of England which is trying to balance a difficult combination of a slowing economy and rising inflation.

The BoE is widely expected to keep rates steady at 5 percent on Thursday, trying to balance a surge in inflation pressures with mounting signs of distress in the British housing market.

The New Zealand dollar fell sharply after the country's central bank held interest rates unchanged at 8.25 percent, as widely expected, and said it was likely to lower them later this year. [ID:nWEL98444]

The kiwi slid about 2 percent from before the Reserve Bank of New Zealand's decision to $0.7655 <NZD=>. Adding fuel to the losses were comments by RBNZ Governor Allan Bollard that the currency's drop was to be expected.

The New Zealand dollar also tumbled against the Australian dollar to hit a six-year low <AUDNZD=R> as the Australian central bank kept rates on hold earlier this week and said it was appropriate to leave rates at 7.25 percent for the time being. (Reporting by Simon Falush) (Editing by Chris Pizzey)

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