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Thursday October 8, 2009 - 20:55:35 GMT
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FOREX NEWS-Dollar hurt by push to riskier assets; Aussie soars


Thu Oct 8, 2009 4:51pm EDT

* Euro hits two-week high after Trichet's FX comments

* Aussie gains on jobs data, more rate hikes expected

* Dollar index down 0.7 pct as risk appetite improves

* Several central banks bought dollars to slow its decline (Adds details, updates prices)

By Leah Schnurr

NEW YORK, Oct 8 (Reuters) - The U.S. dollar hit a 14-month low against a basket of currencies on Thursday as growing optimism of a burgeoning economic recovery prompted demand for riskier assets at the expense of the safe-haven greenback.

The euro also rose after European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet stuck to his standard message that U.S. support for a strong dollar was important, disappointing traders who had expected a more forceful statement.

Trichet's comments came after the ECB held interest rates steady at a record low 1.0 percent. He also said the euro zone economy is stabilizing, but cautioned against hopes of a speedy recovery, saying current interest rates were suitable for the economic situation. For details, see [ID:nL8111212]

"Obviously euro strength is concerning for them, so Trichet reiterated that a strong dollar policy is important, but that wasn't too much of a surprise," said Brian Kim, currency strategist with UBS in Stamford, Connecticut.

Traders said several Asian central banks bought dollars to slow the currency's slide. [ID:nN08390457]

"You are seeing people more concerned that stronger home currencies could be hampering their economic recovery," said Kim.

The ICE Futures U.S. dollar index, a measure of the greenback against six major currencies, fell as low as 75.767, the lowest level since August 2008. It was last down 0.7 percent at 75.971 .DXY.

Traders said 74.30 is a breakout level for the index that could spark further weakness in the dollar. A breach of that level would target 71.30, followed by the index's all-time low around 70.70, set in March 2008.

The euro was up 0.6 percent at $1.4777 EUR=, after hitting a session high of $1.4817, according to Reuters data, the highest level in two weeks.


Nonetheless, traders resumed selling the dollar in favor of better-performing assets as U.S. stock markets climbed on upbeat jobs data and a surprise profit from aluminum producer Alcoa Inc (AA.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz).

"It's just a continuous recovery play," said Fabian Eliasson, vice president of currency sales at Mizuho Corporate Bank in New York. "We're seeing good numbers all over the place."

Against the yen, the dollar was down 0.2 percent at 88.45 yen JPY=. Wednesday's eight-month low of 88.01 yen was the most immediate target and a break below that would bring January's 13-year low of 87.10 yen into view as traders test how far and fast Japan's Ministry of Finance will let the currency strengthen.

Australia reported 40,600 jobs were created in September, confounding expectations of a drop and pushing the Aussie to a 14-month high against the U.S. currency as markets anticipated more interest rate hikes this year. [ID:nL892251]

The Australian dollar jumped 1.6 percent to US$0.9054 AUD=. Earlier this week Australia became the first Group of 20 economy to raise rates coming out of the financial crisis.

Similar to the ECB, the Bank of England left its interest rate at a record low of 0.5 percent for the seventh month running, and said it would keep in place its 175 billion pound program to buy assets from the market to increase liquidity. [ID:nL8222498] (Additional reporting by Wanfeng Zhou, Nick Olivari and Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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