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Wednesday December 3, 2008 - 21:52:18 GMT
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FOREX NEWS-Dollar little changed; ECB, BOE rate meetings ahead

Wed Dec 3, 2008 4:46pm EST

* Dollar little changed after stocks rally in late session

* Beige book sees economy weaken across US

* Market awaits rate decisions from ECB, BoE

* For up-to-the-minute market news, click on FXNEWS (Recasts, updates prices, adds quotes, changes byline)

By Wanfeng Zhou

NEW YORK, Dec 3 (Reuters) - The U.S. dollar and the yen traded little changed against major currencies on Wednesday, paring earlier gains after stocks staged a late rally on Wall Street.

The euro and the British pound came under pressure through most of the session ahead of interest rate decisions by central banks in the euro zone and Britain. Expectations are high that they will ease monetary policy aggressively to boost flagging economies and counter the threat of deflation.

U.S. stocks ended higher in choppy trading, diminishing demand for the safe-haven greenback and the low-yielding yen. But analysts said worries over a slumping global economy continue to weigh heavily on sentiment in financial markets.

"Volatility continues to be extremely high. Traders really tend to be risk averse in this type of atmosphere," said Matt Esteve, a foreign-exchange trader at Tempus Consulting in Washington. "You'll continue to see risk aversion through the end of the year."

In late trading in New York, the euro <EUR=> was flat at $1.2708 after struggling earlier because of data showing further deterioration in the euro zone's services sector.

In its Beige Book report released on Wednesday, the Federal Reserve said economic activity has weakened across the country since early October. Earlier this week, a panel of experts formally declared the U.S. economy in recession since December 2007. See [ID:nWEQ000447].

The dollar was little changed at 93.34 yen <JPY=> after earlier touching 92.55 yen, a five-week low. The euro was also flat against the yen at 118.60 <EURJPY=>.

The New Zealand dollar showed a limited reaction after the country's central bank cut interest rates by a record 150 basis points to 5.0 percent. The move was widely expected. See [ID:nWEL000800].


Sterling fell broadly after data showed that the UK services sector shrank faster than expected in November [ID:nL2553471]. The news boosted expectations that the Bank of England may slash rates by at least a full percentage point from 3.0 percent on Thursday to shore up the domestic economy.

"The British pound has been very weak, reflecting the market's expectation for a larger rate cut," said Kathy Lien, director of currency research at GFT Forex in New York.

"There is a risk of a 125 basis points rate cut if the Bank of England continues to be proactive. Since their next interest rate cut will certainly not be their last, they may decide to do more now than later," she said, in a research note.

Sterling was last down 0.9 percent against the dollar at 1.4773 <GBP=>.

The European Central Bank is seen cutting rates on Thursday by at least 50 basis points to 2.75 percent, but many economists are expecting a 75 basis point cut.

As the global economy slows sharply in recent months, investors have rewarded currencies of countries that have aggressively cut interest rates, analysts said.

"It's kind of counterintuitive. Usually lower interest rate equals lower currencies, but as of late the market really has rewarded central banks that have been proactive and trying to stave off a deep recession," Tempus Consulting's Esteve said.

(Additional reporting by Nick Olivari, Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

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