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Thursday August 21, 2008 - 09:12:57 GMT
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FOREX NEWS-Dollar hauled off peaks as US financial worry resurfaces

Thu Aug 21, 2008 4:54am EDT

* Dlr index down 0.4 percent at 76.591 .DXY

* Fannie/Freddie concerns, rising oil hurt

* Euro zone business activity stabilises

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

By Veronica Brown

LONDON, Aug 21 (Reuters) - The dollar fell on Thursday, pulling back sharply from this week's eight-month highs versus a basket of currencies as inflamed concerns about the U.S. financial sector and rising oil put a chink in its rally.

Persistent worries about the viability of U.S. mortgage finance giants Fannie Mae (FNM.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) and Freddie Mac (FRE.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) and the risk that could pose to an already battered financial system has injected caution into any notion that the dollar's recent climb was a one-way affair.

To add to the mix, the Financial Times reported that Lehman Brothers (LEH.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) had held talks to sell up to half its shares to China's CITIC Securities as well as state-owned Korea Development Bank, but both investors walked away saying the price was too high.

A Lehman spokeswoman declined to comment on the report.

"There are renewed concerns regarding the financial sector and some other investment banks are also grabbing the headlines so the dollar is seeing a corrective pullback," said Ian Stannard, senior currency strategist at BNP Paribas.

"One of the characteristics of this dollar move so far is that there hasn't been a correction," he said.

Crude oil rose more than $1 to 116.82 a barrel CLc1 for a third straight day of gains, pulling gold prices <XAU=> up over the $800 an ounce mark.

Data on Wednesday showed euro zone business activity unexpectedly stabilised at weak levels in August, while oil's sharp pullback from record highs took the pressure off input costs [nLK260561].

But Stannard said the respite given by the figures would not last, given that the euro zone is perceived to be in the early stages of its downturn.

The dollar index, which measures the dollar's value against a basket of six currencies, slipped 0.4 percent to 76.591 .DXY moving well away from an eight-month peak reached on Tuesday at 77.413.

The euro rose 0.4 percent to $1.4798 <EUR=>, staying above a six-month low of $1.4631 hit on Tuesday, according to Reuters data. But the European single currency was 8 percent below a record peak of $1.6038 hit a little over a month ago.

The dollar fell one percent to 108.69 yen <JPY=>, retreating from a seven-month high of 110.67 yen hit last week. The euro was down 0.5 percent at 160.93 yen <EURJPY=>.

CORRECTION, THEN HIGHER

The dollar has soared this month as investors unwound massive positions favouring the euro, higher-yielding currencies and commodities -- taken on bets that the global economy would withstand the U.S. downturn and credit crisis.

But the pace of the U.S. currency's rise is seen slowing as background worries on the U.S. economy continue to bite, while chart patterns are also suggesting a brief reversal.

Background factors supporting further dollar rises remain intact as slowing global growth is expected to lead to interest rate cuts by central banks outside the United States, such as the European Central Bank, the Bank of England and the Reserve Bank of Australia.

The Federal Reserve is seen as more likely to raise interest rates next year to fight inflation. Data showed on Tuesday that U.S. producer prices jumped in July at the fastest annual rate in 27 years, almost reaching a double-digit pace.

"Going forward, we view recent gains in the US dollar as sustainable. Against the backdrop of housing market-related concerns, worsening growth expectations outside the US, the outlook for yields, soft commodity prices and strong capital flows are all dollar-supportive," UBS strategists said. (Reporting by Veronica Brown; Editing by Mike Peacock)

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