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Wednesday December 24, 2008 - 21:46:25 GMT
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FOREX NEWS-Dollar dips vs most major currencies in thin trade


Wed Dec 24, 2008 1:34pm EST

* U.S. data reinforces grim economic outlook

* Euro steady, Trichet offers little hint on ECB policy

* Sterling on defensive, parity with euro in sight (Updates with closing prices)

By Steven C. Johnson

NEW YORK, Dec 24 (Reuters) - The dollar fell against most major currencies on Wednesday as data on unemployment, spending and durable goods orders reinforced the bleak outlook for the U.S. economy in the year ahead.

Trading desks were lightly staffed ahead of the Christmas holiday, confining currencies to narrow ranges. Market reaction to the economic data was subdued.

Both the U.S. stock and bond markets closed at 1 p.m. (1800 GMT) and will remain shuttered for Christmas on Thursday.

Investors and traders who were still on hand saw little in Wednesday's clutch of economic data to cheer about.

The drumbeat of grim government data included a 26-year high for the number of people filing for jobless benefits in the United States. Another report showed consumers cut spending for a fifth straight month in November.

Orders for big-ticket durable goods such as appliances and computers fell 1 percent in November after a downwardly revised 8.4 percent plunge the prior month, the official data showed. For more see [ID:nN24257322].

I don't think we are going to have a major reassessment of the U.S. economic situation based on today's data," said Daniel Katzive, director of global foreign exchange at Credit Suisse in New York. "All in all, the scenario remains pretty weak."

In New York, the dollar was down 0.3 percent at 90.65 yen <JPY=> while the euro rose 0.2 percent to $1.3983 <EUR=>. The euro fell 0.2 percent to 126.72 yen <EURJPY=>.

On Tuesday, European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet said authorities would do what's needed to maintain price stability, but did not comment on the policy outlook.

ECB Governing Council member Ewald Nowotny told Austrian television on Wednesday that further interest rate cuts cannot be ruled out, but the central bank did not want to be seen as committing on possible rate cuts. [ID:nWLA4245]

Sterling was down 0.3 percent at $1.4727 <GBP=> after a survey showed house prices in the United Kingdom would fall by 10 percent next year. [ID:nLN634241].

The euro rose 0.6 percent against sterling to 95.03 pence <EURGBP=>, near a record-high above 95.56 pence. Analysts said the outlook for the UK economy means the trend will continue.

"The pound will keep weakening and we are within striking distance of parity with the euro. I wouldn't be surprised if we touch parity before the year end," said Katzive.

The dollar fell 0.9 percent to 1.0770 Swiss francs <CHF=>, while the New Zealand <NZD=> and Australian <AUD=> dollars both rose against the U.S. currency.

In Russia, authorities staged the seventh mini rouble devaluation of the month on Wednesday, as the price of oil plunged to four-year lows.

The rouble weakened as much as 1.3 percent on Wednesday, to 33.90 versus a euro-dollar basket <RUS=MCX>. A central bank source confirmed the trading band had been widened.. [nLO184082]. (Additional reporting by Vivianne Rodrigues in New York and Tamawa Desai in London; editing by Walker Simon)

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