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Thursday January 22, 2009 - 21:56:45 GMT
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FOREX NEWS-Dollar up on safe-haven bid, Geithner comments

 

Thu Jan 22, 2009 4:14pm EST

* Dollar buoyed as investors shun risk

* Treasury Secretary nominee Geithner wants strong dollar

* Traders alert to possible currency intervention (Recasts; adds comments, changes byline)

By Vivianne Rodrigues

NEW YORK, Jan 22 (Reuters) - The U.S. dollar rose on Thursday bolstered by its safe-haven status and comments by Treasury Secretary nominee Timothy Geithner, who said a strong dollar is in the United States' interest.

The Senate Finance Committee on Thursday backed Geithner, President Barack Obama's nominee to head the U.S. Treasury, clearing the way for a full confirmation vote in the Senate. For details, see [ID:nN22539780]

Geithner's comments came against the backdrop of ongoing investor concerns about the health of the global economy with sterling still pressured by Britain's banking and economic woes.

Currency markets were also buffeted by poor U.S. economic data and speculation of currency market intervention.

But the dollar weakened against the yen after a report showed a larger-than-expected increase in the number of U.S. workers filing claims for jobless benefits. [ID:nN22525475]

Yen gains were limited by investors on alert for possible Bank of Japan intervention after Swiss officials issued similar warnings on Wednesday. The yen is near a 13-1/2-year peak against the dollar and hit a seven-year high against the euro on Wednesday.

A strong dollar "provides an anchor to continue attracting capital to pay for all this deficit spending that's going to occur, and when the economy starts to recover, it will help keep inflation under control," said Greg Salvaggio, vice president of trading at Tempus Consulting in Washington.

In late New York trading, the euro was down 0.2 percent against the dollar to $1.3014 <EUR=>. The euro dropped 1 percent to 115.36 yen <EURJPY=>, falling back toward the seven-year trough plumbed on Wednesday.

The dollar was down 0.9 percent at 88.62 yen <JPY=>, but off Wednesday's low of 87.10, its lowest since July 1995.

Sterling dropped 0.6 percent to $1.3901 <GBP=>, not far from the low of $1.3622 set on Wednesday, its lowest since 1985. The euro gained 0.3 percent against the troubled UK currency to 93.62 pence <EURGBP=>.

The pound has come under severe pressure this week as a government rescue package for struggling British banks failed to reassure investors or stem losses in banking stocks.

"There's a race to the bottom taking place among some major currencies and the UK seems to be leading the way," said Samarjit Shanker, a director for global strategy at the Bank of New York Mellon, in Boston.

STRONG DOLLAR

In other U.S. data, new U.S. housing starts and permits tumbled to a record low in December, accelerating a downward spiral. [ID:nN21489514]

"On balance, the dollar is not expected to fall too much because the market has been bracing for dismal news anyway," said Omer Esiner, senior market analyst at Ruesch International in Washington. "Bad news out of the euro zone and Japan has benefited the dollar and that should continue despite bad U.S. economic data."

Euro sentiment has been dented by three sovereign ratings downgrades of euro-zone countries within a week. S&P cut Portugal's sovereign rating on Wednesday after earlier downgrading Spain and Greece.

There are also major concerns about the deteriorating state of UK public finances and how the government will fund huge bailout packages when it is already running a large fiscal deficit, just as a weakening economy dents tax receipts.

In Japan, authorities have repeated their mantra that they were watching currency moves closely, but refrained from commenting on yen-selling intervention. [ID:nTKG003256]

"The risk of yen intervention is increasing, but even if they (the Japanese authorities) do intervene they won't be able to reverse the trend," said BTM-UFJ currency economist Lee Hardman in London. (Additional reporting by Nick Olivari, Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss and Steven C. Johnson in New York; editing by Gary Crosse)

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