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Wednesday September 3, 2008 - 20:52:28 GMT
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FOREX NEWS-Dollar edges higher as euro zone data disappoints

Wed Sep 3, 2008 4:10pm EDT

* Euro hits lowest against the dollar since January

* Dollar continues to benefit from global economic jitters

* U.S. factory orders rise more than expected in July (Adds comments, updates prices, changes byline)

By Vivianne Rodrigues

NEW YORK, Sept 3 (Reuters) - The U.S. dollar rose slightly on Wednesday and earlier touched its highest against the euro since January, on growing expectations the U.S. economy would outperform that of Europe.

The dollar briefly extended its gains versus the euro after a government report showed U.S. factory orders rose more than expected in July, adding to signs of resilience in the U.S. economy. For more see [ID:nN02444541].

The data "fills in the picture of a moderately recovering U.S. economy," said Joseph Trevisani, chief market analyst at FX Solutions in Saddle River, New Jersey, referring to U.S. factory orders data. "All in all, it will provide the dollar with longer-term support."

In contrast, euro zone data on Wednesday underscored a weakening economy in the region. Retail sales in July fell and other reports confirmed the euro zone economy shrank in the second quarter, its first quarter-on-quarter decline since the data series began in 1995. [ID:nL2117725].

In late afternoon trading in New York, the euro <EUR=> was 0.1 percent down at $1.4505, after hitting a low of $1.4386 in intraday trading, its lowest since Jan. 22.

The ICE Futures U.S. dollar index .DXY, which tracks its performance against a basket of six major currencies, jumped earlier to an 11-month high of 78.651, before pulling back to trade little changed at 78.019.

Sterling <GBP=> fell as low as $1.7669, crashing more than a full cent to its lowest since April 2006, before recovering slightly after data showing an improvement in the UK services sector. The pound last traded down 0.3 percent at $1.7773.

A further drop in oil prices, which tumbled this week after Hurricane Gustav left energy facilities in the Gulf of Mexico mostly unscathed, also benefited the U.S. currency. Oil last traded down 0.3 percent at $109.41 a barrel CLc1.

"The dollar once again reaffirmed its status as the current king of the hill in the forex markets, buoyed by continued declines in oil and gold prices," Boris Schlossberg, a currency strategist at GFT Forex, said in a note.

Analysts said investors were increasingly getting on board with the greenback as a safer place to allocate cash compared with currencies whose countries were further behind in terms of economic readjustment in the wake of the global credit crunch.

"It's clearly a strong dollar story that continues this week," said Vassili Serebriakov, a currency strategist at Wells Fargo in New York. "We're still continuing to see liquidation of many remaining U.S. dollar shorts."

A Federal Reserve report on regional economic conditions had limited impact on the markets. The Fed's anecdotal Beige Book showed economic activity has been slow across the United States in recent weeks, but there has been some relief from high commodity and energy prices. [ID:nN03277374].

CENTRAL BANK DECISIONS ON TAP

The European Central Bank and the Bank of England will issue separate interest-rate decisions on Thursday and both are expected to keep rates on hold. [ID:nL1358323] [ID:nL2593052].

The ECB has long said its main concern is taming inflationary pressures and that it will tighten policy if price risks remain high. But analysts say an increasingly bearish growth view may spur speculation of a possible rate.

"The ECB's increased acknowledgment of the widely anticipated technical recession in the euro zone is prompting bond markets to expect easing in 2009, the same year in which the Fed is widely expected ... to begin raising interest rates," said Ashraf Laidi, chief FX strategist at CMC Markets U.S.

Elsewhere, suspected dollar-selling intervention by South Korean authorities lifted the won from a four-year low on Wednesday, but they may not have done enough to stem the slide in Asia's worst-performing currency this year. [ID:nSP344803].

The won recently traded down 1.5 percent at 1,147.90 versus the U.S. dollar. (Additional reporting by Wanfeng Zhou; Editing by James Dalgleish)

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