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Tuesday September 16, 2008 - 20:56:43 GMT
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FOREX NEWS-US dollar gains after Fed leaves rates on hold

Tue Sep 16, 2008 4:42pm EDT

* Federal Reserve leaves benchmark rate steady at 2 percent

* Dollar gains vs euro and yen

* Risk aversion dominates in wake of Lehman collapse

(Updates prices, adds quotes, changes byline)

By Nick Olivari

NEW YORK, Sept 16 (Reuters) - The dollar gained on Tuesday after the Federal Reserve held interest rates steady at 2 percent, opting for the time being to soothe rattled financial markets with central bank lending facilities rather than rate cuts.

The dollar was volatile in the moments after the U.S. central bank's announcement as some investors had been hoping for a rate cut as concern about insurer American International Group (AIG.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) mounted, a day after the U.S. stock market suffered its worst decline since the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks. For more on Fed decision, click [nN16370482].

Yet as investors debated the Fed decision and the accompanying statement they focused on the positive. The dollar received an added boost against the yen after Bloomberg, citing a person familiar with the matter, reported the Federal Reserve is mulling a loan package to AIG. [nWBT009718].

"Right now the lack of the Fed to move on interest rates might send a bit of confidence to the markets that things are not as bad as they had thought and that once we clear this AIG problem it will be getting better," said Greg Salvaggio, vice president of trading at Tempus Consulting in Washington.

The euro slipped 0.8 percent to $1.4153 <EUR=>, in late New York trading on Tuesday, well off Monday's session peak at $1.4479. The dollar index on the ICE Futures Exchange rose 0.8 percent to 79.109 .DXY.

The dollar rebounded from near four-month lows against the yen, rising to 106.24 <JPY=>, up 1.6 percent on the session, the best day since April 1. Earlier in the session, the dollar fell to 103.55, the lowest since late May, according to Reuters data. On Monday, the yen posted its biggest one-day gain versus the dollar in about a decade.

The euro, meanwhile, rose 0.7 percent to 150.40 yen <EURJPY=>.

The U.S. dollar was already in positive territory on Tuesday as nervous investors sought the greenback's safety, fleeing other markets amid global credit worries.

Adding to fears about the U.S. financial system following the collapse of Lehman Brothers (LEH.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz), Goldman Sachs (GS.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz), the largest U.S. investment bank, reported a sharp drop in earnings. Goldman's comments also did little to discourage the flight from risky trades, which added to demand for the dollar. [ID:nN16313214].

Fearing the fallout from Lehman and capital-raising problems at American International Group, investors clamored for safe-haven assets such as U.S. government bonds while dumping stocks.

Central banks also flooded money markets with cash to encourage banks to overcome credit concerns and lend to one another.

Analysts said that despite much of the bad news originating in the United States, the dollar benefited from the widespread financial jitters as investors, particularly those from the United States, became increasingly keen to send money back home for safety.

"I expect the dollar's upswing to continue. The major driver behind this is a massive repatriation of foreign-based U.S. investments including those from foreign funds," said Adam Fazio, a senior currency strategist, at CIBC World Markets in New York.

"When you have a brand new trend that takes hold, like a strong dollar, that trend will pretty much remain in force. Recent corrections in the dollar did little but offer an opportunity to add to dollar longs," he added. (Additional reporting by Lucia Mutikani) (Reporting by Nick Olivari and Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss; Editing by Diane Craft)

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