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Friday June 20, 2008 - 10:17:51 GMT
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FOREX NEWS - Dollar weighed by rising oil, insurer jitters

FOREX-Dollar weighed by rising oil, insurer jitters

Fri Jun 20, 2008 5:05am EDT

* Dollar down as oil rallies above $132

* Jitters revived as Moody's cuts two U.S. insurer ratings

* Focus turning to FOMC amid thin data calendar

By Michael Taylor

LONDON, June 20 (Reuters) - The dollar fell against a basket of major currencies on Friday after a rally in oil and a ratings downgrade of two U.S. insurers that raised fresh jitters about the financial sector and broader U.S. economic health.

Investment bank Citigroup (C.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) also warned late on Thursday that it could take substantial writedowns in the second quarter.

Oil CLc1 rose above $132 a barrel after a near $5 plunge on Thursday, on China's move to raise fuel prices, as traders weighed the impact on demand in the world's second-largest oil consumer.

The dollar has tended to fall when oil prices surge due to speculation that oil-producing countries may use the increased dollar-denominated windfall from crude exports to buy euros and other currencies to diversify their portfolios.

Investors will be alert to the outcome of a meeting on Sunday in Saudi Arabia between consumers and producers to discuss the surge in crude.

Continuing jitters over the now 10-month-old credit crunch were highlighted as Moody's Investors Service stripped the insurance arms of Ambac Financial Group (ABK.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) and MBIA Inc (MBI.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) of their Aaa ratings late on Thursday, citing their impaired ability to raise capital and write new business.

"People are still broadly reacting from (Moody's downgrades) people continue to worry about ongoing pressures in the financial sector," said Rabobank markets strategist Jeremy Stretch.

By 0827 GMT, the dollar was down 0.3 percent on the day versus a basket of six major currencies .DXY, having hit a one-week low on Thursday at 73.205.

The euro gained 0.4 percent to $1.5568 <EUR=> and rose 0.3 percent to 167.88 yen <EURJPY=>, closing in on an 11-month high hit on Wednesday at 168.03 yen.

Against the Swiss franc, the dollar shed 0.4 percent to 1.0403 francs <CHF=> -- letting go of gains made on Thursday after the Swiss National Bank elected to keep its borrowing costs on hold at 2.75 percent.


U.S. data on Thursday did little to improve the dollar's fortunes as output in U.S. Mid-Atlantic factories pulled back for the seventh straight month as costs shot up to a 28-year high.

With little of note in terms of economic data out of the U.S. and Europe on Friday, dealers said major currencies were likely to trade in fairly narrow ranges ahead of next week's Federal Reserve interest rate-setting meeting and accompanying statement.

UBS analysts said in a note to clients that the U.S. central bank's statement may be less hawkish than some might expect, particularly after a series of inflation-fighting comments from U.S. policymakers.

"We believe that Fed tightening expectations remain overdone, and under such conditions upside in the greenback is fairly limited," the bank said.

The Canadian dollar was supported after Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney on Thursday said an unprecedented rise in commodity prices required a "relentless focus on inflation". [ID:nOTW000095]

The BOC unexpectedly held its key interest rate at 3 percent last week and signalled an end to its rate-cutting cycle as inflationary pressures were surprisingly strong.

The U.S. dollar edged down 0.1 percent to C$1.0146 <CAD=>. (Reporting by Michael Taylor; Editing by Malcolm Whittaker)

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