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Thursday August 13, 2009 - 20:32:44 GMT
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FOREX NEWS-Euro rises as France, Germany exit recession

Thu Aug 13, 2009 4:02pm EDT

* Upside surprises in German, French GDP buoy euro

* U.S. retail sales and jobless claims data disappoint

* Euro zone economy shrinks just 0.1 pct in 2nd quarter (Updates prices)

By Steven C. Johnson

NEW YORK, Aug 13 (Reuters) - The euro rose against the dollar for the second straight session on Thursday as data showed the euro zone's two biggest economies unexpectedly returned to growth in the second quarter of the year.

News that Germany and France pulled out of recession in the April-to-June period contrasted with disappointing U.S. retail sales data for July, which cast a shadow over an anticipated consumer rebound and sent the dollar lower against the yen.

The retail sales report and figures showing a surprise jump in U.S. workers filing first-time jobless claims last week came a day after the Federal Reserve gave its clearest signal yet that it thinks the U.S. recession is nearing an end.

"The (European) data definitely caused a rethink of what to expect from the euro zone and people are jumping all over the euro," said Andrew Wilkinson, senior market analyst at Interactive Brokers Group in Greenwich, Connecticut.

He said markets also expect the U.S. economy to recover but said Thursday's data was a reminder that "U.S. consumers are still looking at a massive debt burden that won't go away soon," suggesting a "slow and protracted" recovery.

The euro was last up 0.7 percent at $1.4282 EUR= after rising to $1.4327, its highest in a week, according to Reuters data.

The dollar was down 0.8 percent at 95.35 yen JPY= while the euro fell 0.1 percent to 136.22 yen EURJPY=R. Sterling rose 0.5 percent to $1.6570 GBP=.

Higher-yielding currencies such as the Australian AUD= and New Zealand NZD= dollars gained more than 1 percent each, extending rises from the previous day.

Analysts said the euro zone forecast was not uniformly sunny, noting the economy of the 16-country zone shrank 4.6 percent from a year ago. It also contracted 0.1 percent in the second quarter after shrinking 2.5 percent in the January-to-March period.

Wilkinson said the euro's failure to push up to $1.4350 mean it may be vulnerable to a pullback on Friday.

None of that dulled investor disappointment with the 0.1 percent slide in U.S .retail sales, especially as it followed the Fed's upbeat assessment and last week's data showing U.S. employers cut fewer jobs than expected in July.

Economists polled by Reuters had expected retail sales to rise 0.7 percent, partly thanks to a boost from the government's "cash for clunkers" program that gives money to swap aging, gas-guzzling cars for new, more efficient ones.

"The decline in the headline number for retail sales, despite much talk of the 'cash for clunkers' program, came as a big disappointment," said Matthew Strauss, senior currency strategist at RBC Capital Markets in Toronto.

"I'm not surprised to see the dollar giving up its earlier gains versus the yen as investors are flocking to the Japanese currency as a safe haven." For more on the U.S. data, see [ID:nLD699131].

Some investors said even the Fed this week had left a lot open to interpretation.

"The problem with the Fed statement is that the market can read into it what it wants, leaving both sides content," said Stuart Bennett, senior FX strategist at Calyon in London. "Hence, for now, it is still unclear which way the dollar will jump." (Additional reporting by Nick Olivari and Vivianne Rodrigues in New York and Naomi Tajitsu in London; Editing by James Dalgleish)

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