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Monday May 4, 2009 - 21:13:02 GMT
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FOREX NEWS-Dollar falls as safety bid wanes on economic hopes

Mon May 4, 2009 4:20pm EDT

* Dollar falls as stocks rally, risk-taking returns

* Data fuels hope economic crisis nearing bottom

* Central bank meetings, led by ECB, in focus this week (Updates prices, adds comments)

By Wanfeng Zhou

NEW YORK, May 4 (Reuters) - The dollar fell against major currencies on Monday as a rally in U.S. stocks and hopes that the worst of the global economic crisis could be over eroded the greenback's safe-haven appeal.

The euro rose to a one-month high above $1.34 after economic data pointed to stabilization in U.S. home sales and construction. The improved appetite for risk also pushed the Australian dollar to a seven-month high against the dollar.

"The worst is probably behind us," said Kathy Lien, director of currency research at GFT Forex in New York. "That's certainly part of the reason why we're seeing this broad-based rally in equities and money moving out of the safety of U.S. dollars into riskier currencies."

Thin trading volume has exacerbated currency moves, with markets in Britain and Japan shuttered for holidays, analysts said.

In late New York trading, the euro rose 1 percent at $1.3396 <EUR=>, near a session peak at $1.3425, the highest level since early April, but was well off the day's low at $1.3212, according to Reuters data.

The euro had earlier come under pressure after European Central Bank council member Axel Weber said Germany won't resume growth until the second half of 2010. For details, see [ID:nL4643848].

The euro also added 0.8 percent to 132.58 yen <EURJPY=>, near a three-week high, while the dollar was down 0.1 percent at 98.94 yen <JPY=>.

Sterling rose 0.6 percent to $1.5002 <GBP=>, while the Australian dollar jumped as high as $0.7410, the highest since early October, and was last up 1.3 percent at $0.7395 <AUD=>. Australia boasts the highest interest rates among developed currencies.

Investors were cheered by a 3.2 percent jump in pending U.S. home sales in March and the first increase in construction spending since September. The U.S. data followed better news on manufacturing in Europe, China and India, supporting the view that the deepest economic slump in decades may have bottomed out. [ID:nL4731565].

"The core view today is one of an incremental shift toward recovery," said Andrew Wilkinson, senior market analyst at Interactive Brokers Group in Greenwich, Connecticut.

BUSY WEEK

Despite a recovery in risk appetite, currency investors will likely remain cautious in the coming sessions ahead of the results of U.S. bank stress tests, central bank meetings in Europe and a key U.S. jobs report.

Analysts said while worries have faded about stress tests showing some big banks need more capital, investors remain wary of Thursday's ECB policy meeting.

The central bank of the 16-country euro zone is expected to cut interest rates to 1 percent and possibly announce further steps, such as buying securities, to stimulate lending and growth. Central banks in Britain, Norway and Australia also meet this week.

"ECB officials have been candid in talking about their differences in public, and Thursday is really D-Day for them," said UBS currency strategist Brian Kim.

He said any indication that the bank will follow the U.S. Federal Reserve and others and embrace quantitative easing -- the process of flooding a banking system with money to boost lending -- would likely weigh on the euro.

But GFT Forex's Lien said the ECB meeting may prove to be a bullish factor for the euro. She said ECB officials, including chief Jean-Claude Trichet, have been openly reluctant to cut interest rates to anywhere near levels in the U.S. and UK.

"Even though the ECB is expected to cut interest rates and embark on unconventional measures, I expect them to tell us that the rate cut this week will be their last," she said. (Additional reporting by Steven C. Johnson; Editing by Kenneth Barry)

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