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Monday July 21, 2008 - 09:19:12 GMT
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FOREX NEWS-Dlr steadies off record low, financials in focus

Mon Jul 21, 2008 3:46am EDT

* Euro up 0.1 percent at $1.5865 <EUR=>

* Investors watching U.S. earnings, oil price

* Sentiment on U.S. financials remains cautious

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

By Toni Vorobyova

LONDON, July 21 (Reuters) - The dollar steadied nearly two cents away from record lows versus the euro on Monday with sentiment hinged on the strength of U.S. banks' earnings and the reception of a rescue plan for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Confidence in the U.S. financial sector, hard-hit by the nearly one-year old credit crunch, was also boosted late last week after results from Citi (C.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz), JPMorgan Chase (JPM.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) and Wells Fargo (WFC.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) beat low expectations.

But a flurry of earnings due this week -- including Bank of America on Monday and Wachovia (WB.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) on Tuesday -- kept investors on edge.

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said on Sunday he was optimistic Congress would approve the government's request for authority to shore up the two troubled mortgage giants, Freddie and Fannie.

"The question is will there be some disappointment in respect to the rescue package or not. If not, that should be dollar supportive," said Michael Klawitter, currency strategist at Dresdner Kleinwort in Frankfurt.

"$1.60 still seems to be the top for euro/dollar and a break above that level really needs a clear loss in confidence in the U.S. financial system in general," he added.

The euro edged up 0.1 percent to $1.5865 <EUR=> by 0728 GMT.

Despite setting a record high of $1.6038 last Tuesday, the euro staged its worst weekly performance in a month last week thanks to the U.S. bank results. It's still up nearly 9 percent for the year-to-date though.

Ongoing risk appetite jitters translated into an early morning slide in European stocks , while the low-yielding yen pushed higher against the dollar.

The dollar fell 0.3 percent to 106.64 yen <JPY=>, while the euro eased 0.2 percent to 169.17 yen <EURJPY=>.

The worst performer among the majors was sterling, which lost around a third of a percent versus both the euro <EURGBP=> and the dollar <GBP=> after Bank of England policymaker David Blanchflower was quoted as saying the economy is heading into a recession [ID:nL21583247].

Blanchflower was the lone voice calling for a cut in rates at the central bank's May and June meetings.

OILY PATH

The dollar had also been supported last week by a sharp pullback in oil prices, which were down $18 from their highs at one stage.

Yet, oil prices CLc1 gained $1.20 cents to $130.11 a barrel on Monday after talks over Iran's nuclear ambitions failed to reach a conclusion [O/R].

"The oil price continues to be the main risk for further considerable dollar gains in case the correction, which started last week, resumes," Commerzbank Corporates & Markets said in a research note.

Looking ahead, traders were awaiting a speech from Philadelphia Fed Chief Charles Plosser on Tuesday, while New York Fed President Timothy Geithner and SEC Chairman Christopher Cox are set to testify before a House Financial Services Committee hearing on regulation on Thursday.

The Fed releases its Beige Book summary of the economy on Wednesday where it will have to balance weakness in the housing market and the squeeze in credit markets against rising inflation.

Key U.S. data includes June existing home sales on Thursday and new home sales on Friday, releases which BNP Paribas described as "the big test for U.S. markets".

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