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Thursday June 19, 2008 - 09:18:40 GMT
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FOREX NEWS - Dlr rallies at Swissie's expense, sterling boosted

Thu Jun 19, 2008 5:12am EDT

* Dlr rallies broadly from 1-wk lows after SNB stands pat

* Sterling boosted by surprise jump in UK retail sales

* Overall dlr sentiment still clouded by rate outlook

(Changes dateline, byline, adds quotes, updates prices)

By Veronica Brown

LONDON, June 19 (Reuters) - The dollar rallied broadly on Thursday, benefitting as the Swiss National Bank's decision to to keep its interest rates on hold stalled the Swiss franc's overnight advance.

Sterling was boosted after an unexpectedly robust reading of British retail sales, which conflicted with an overall picture of a sharply slowing British economy.

Rising money market rates and growing inflationary pressures had led a significant minority of investors to expect a SNB rate rise from 2.75 percent, taking the Swissie to a 17-year high against the yen overnight, but the rally fizzled out as the bank declined to act.

The SNB held rates for a third successive quarter and said the medium term price outlook still allowed for unchanged policy, adding that all signs pointed to current inflation being temporary.

Analysts said that investors might see the SNB decision as a reason to scale back expectations for European Central Bank rate rises after an expected increase in July.

"The SNB faces the same sorts of difficulties that central banks in the rest of the developed world seem to be facing, with regards to inflation pressure building and the global growth picture looking less certain," BNP Paribas senior currency strategist Ian Stannard said.

"Traditionally the SNB has liked to lead the ECB so there might be some scaling back of market expectations for the ECB...Interestingly, we've seen even some of the more hawkish members of the ECB dampen down expectations further out in the year," he added.

The dollar's outlook was still clouded however, with poor economic data and continued worries about general economic health in the wake of a global credit crunch injecting doubt into expectations for a near-term U.S. interest rate rise from the current 2 percent.

As of Wednesday, U.S. short-term interest rate futures showed a 48 percent chance of the Fed raising rates by 25 basis points in August, down from 90 percent earlier this week.

By 0845 GMT, the dollar was up 0.1 percent on the day versus a basket of six major currencies .DXY, having earlier hit a one-week low at 73.205.

Against the Swiss franc, the dollar rose 0.5 percent to 1.0422 francs, reversing earlier losses made in the run up to the SNB decision <CHF=>. The franc also fell a third of a percent versus the euro <EURCHF=>.

The franc had hit a 17-year high of 104.29 yen <CHFJPY=R> overnight.

The euro eased 0.1 percent to $1.5510 <EUR=> and fell to 167.22 yen <EURJPY=R>, but stayed within sight of an 11-month high hit on Wednesday.


Sterling jumped after a surprisingly strong reading of British retail sales highlighted inflationary pressure.

The Office for National Statistics said sales surged 3.5 percent last month, putting them up 8.1 percent on the year. The annual rate was the strongest since April 2002 [nONS003577].

The figures were much stronger than forecasts for a monthly fall of 0.1 percent for an annual rise of 4.1 percent.

"The (numbers) came out very strong, surprisingly so, a massive jump in the headline and pretty much across the board and we see a particular strength in clothing and footwear," said Daragh Maher, senior currency strategist at Calyon.

"For now sterling bounces on it. But in terms of its meaning for policy, I think they (the Bank of England) would want to see a confirmation that this isn't some weird aberration."

Sterling rallied to a one-week high of $1.9715 <GBP=>, up more than half a percent on the day. It had traded at $1.9629 before the announcement.

It also climbed against the euro, pushing the single currency down roughly 0.7 percent to 78.70 pence <EURGBP=>.

(Additional reporting by Naomi Tajitsu and Bate Felix)

(Reporting by Veronica Brown; Editing by Gerrard Raven)

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