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Friday August 22, 2008 - 22:51:36 GMT
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FOREX NEWS-Plunging oil, gloomy British data fuel dollar rally

(ADVISORY: Please note that there is reduced FX coverage in Europe on Monday owing to a public holiday in the UK. Full European coverage will resume on Tuesday.)

* Dollar rallies, UK GDP backs slower global growth view

* Crude prices drop more than $6, cheering stocks

* Bernanke says dollar stability to slow inflation (Adds details, updates prices, changes byline)

By Lucia Mutikani

NEW YORK, Aug 22 (Reuters) - The dollar surged on Friday, recovering from the previous day's losses, as gloomy British growth data backed views of a slowing global economy and raised prospects of interest rate cuts outside the United States.

A $6.59 drop in U.S. crude oil prices to below $115 per barrel, which contributed to a rally on Wall Street, and comments by influential investor Warren Buffett that he has no bets against the dollar also added to the U.S. currency's upward momentum.

"UK GDP data weighed on the pound and sequentially on the euro, the Aussie dollar and the Kiwi dollar, which are the central banks looked at as potentially cutting interest rates," said David Watt, senior currency strategist at RBC Capital Markets in Toronto.

Data showed the British economy stalled on the second quarter, suggesting a recession might be looming, and added to an overall bleak picture of a slowing European economy. It raised the possibility of European Central Bank and Bank of England monetary easing.

The euro <EUR=> dropped to a session low of $1.4760, edging toward a six-month low hit earlier this week at $1.4631, according to Reuters data. It was last trading at $1.4772, down 0.9 percent.

Despite Friday's losses, the euro was on track for its best weekly gain against the dollar since mid-July.

The dollar jumped 1.5 percent to 110.03 yen <JPY=>, while sterling slumped 1.5 percent to 1.8508 against the greenback <GBP=>. The dollar was on pace for its best one-day gain against the yen in more than two months at current prices.

The gains hoisted the dollar index to an intraday peak of 76.866 .DXY, not far from its 2008 peak at 77.413 hit early this week. The index, which measures the dollar's value against a basket of six currencies, was last up 1.0 percent at 76.789.


The dollar briefly trimmed gains against the euro in a knee-jerk reaction to Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's comments that a stable dollar and falling commodities should help slow inflation this year and next. For details, see [ID:nN22434443].

Bernanke's remarks at an annual Fed symposium in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, prompted analysts to reduce expectations of a U.S. interest rate increase this year, which could diminish the dollar's appeal to investors.

But analysts said even without an interest rate hike this year, the dollar would probably continue to recover.

"In talking about the headwinds to the U.S. economy and then indicating how they had cut interest rates so aggressively ... the Fed feels it has done a lot of work," said RBC Capital Markets' Watt.

"If you contrast that with what is going on with UK GDP numbers and how much work that still has to be done by a number of the other central banks, it just entrenches the positive U.S. dollar view," Watt said.

The dollar has soared this month as dealers have unwound trades that bet on the global economy weathering the U.S. downturn and the credit crisis. Investors, as a result, sold the euro, British pound, Australian dollar and commodities.

Analysts said the dollar remained on track for a medium-term recovery after a seven-year downtrend.

Persistent problems at U.S. mortgage finance companies Fannie Mae (FNM.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) and Freddie Mac (FRE.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz), and speculation over the future ofinvestment bank Lehman Brothers (LEH.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) could make the road to recovery a bit bumpy, they warned.

"In the current environment of financial market instability, traders needed Bernanke to reassure them that they will take care of the financials first and worry about inflation later, which was exactly what Bernanke delivered," said Kathy Lien, director of currency research at GFT Forex in New York.

"However don't be mistaken, the Fed is still looking to raise interest rates in 2009," Lien wrote in a note.

The Australian dollar dived 1.6 percent to US$0.8665 <AUD=>, while the Kiwi dollar tumbled 1.8 percent to US$0.7086 <NZD=>. (Additional reporting by Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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