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Wednesday November 11, 2009 - 21:27:10 GMT
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FOREX NEWS-Dollar hits 15-month low; sterling falls sharply

Wed Nov 11, 2009 4:08pm EST

* Dollar index hits 15-month low, recovers

* Sterling slides after BoE comments on pound weakness

* Anti-dollar sentiment still strong, Fed seen on hold (Updates prices, adds detail)

By Steven C. Johnson

NEW YORK, Nov 11 (Reuters) - The dollar hit a 15-month low against major currencies on Wednesday on the view that U.S. interest rates will remain low well into next year, though it regained some ground after failing to push through key levels.

Sterling tumbled after the Bank of England governor said pound weakness would help British exporters and aid economic recovery, while data from China stoked hopes that a global recovery was gaining momentum.

Many worry that the U.S. economy, however, will recover slowly, and a bevy of Federal Reserve officials bolstered that view this week, warning the recovery would be erratic and hinting that interest rates would remain low for some time.

Low interest rates make the dollar less attractive to investors than higher-yielding currencies, stocks and commodities.

"We're seeing a minor pullback after stocks didn't sustain new highs," said Brian Dolan, chief strategist at Forex.com in Bedminster, New Jersey. "But oil and gold are still up and the lack of any movement from the Fed will eliminate any interest rate support for the dollar."

An index of the dollar against six major currencies .DXY earlier hit a 15-month low of 74.774 though it later climbed back to 75.108, up 0.1 percent.

The euro, the biggest component of the index, was flat at $1.4979 EUR=, off a session high of $1.5048. Traders said its next test is at $1.5060, a key resistance point.

The dollar was also unchanged at 89.81 yen JPY=.

Sterling GBP= fell 1.1 percent to $1.6558, its biggest one-day drop since Oct. 23 at current prices. Earlier, BoE Governor Mervyn King emphasized the need for the UK economy to rebalance toward exports and said a weaker pound would help achieve this. For details, see [ID:nLB165473]

The BoE has been engaged in quantitative easing, a program that involves flooding the banking system and economy with money, partly through purchases of government debt.

"Most importantly, he refused to rule out an end to quantitative easing and said there's no limit at all on the program," UBS currency strategists said of King's comments.

Trading was relatively light with the U.S. bond market and government offices closed for the Veterans Day holiday.

Data on Wednesday showed China's factory output surged to a 19-month high last month, suggesting robust growth in the world's third-largest economy. That initially sparked some dollar selling as investors bought higher-yielding currencies. [ID:nPEK212006]

"China data came in quite good, which elevates risk interest," said John McCarthy, director of foreign exchange at ING Capital Markets in New York.

The high-yielding Australian dollar hit a 15-month high against the greenback, but those gains later evaporated, leaving it at $0.9290, down 0.2 percent on the day.

Earlier, the People's Bank of China said it would consider using a basket of currencies, not just the dollar, in guiding the exchange rate of the Chinese yuan CNY=, its clearest signal yet that it was close to letting the yuan appreciate after an 18-month hiatus.

An appreciation in the yuan in the future, analysts said, could take pressure off the euro, which has borne the brunt of the dollar's decline.

"That could be a game changer and suggests the euro and other currencies that have been hammered by the drop in the dollar may get shot in the arm," Dolan said. (Additional reporting by Nick Olivari; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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