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Monday November 16, 2009 - 21:44:57 GMT
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FOREX NEWS-Dollar down broadly; Bernanke rate outlook weighs


Mon Nov 16, 2009 4:29pm EST

* Bernanke says Fed attentive to dollar

* Bernanke says Fed's mandate will ensure dollar strong

* U.S., China fail to agree on currency position

* U.S. retail sales rise more than expected

* Australian dollar hits fresh 15-month peak vs greenback (Updates prices, adds detail)

By Nick Olivari

NEW YORK, Nov 16 (Reuters) - The dollar fell on Monday as a rise in U.S. retail sales failed to change the outlook for low U.S. interest rates and disagreement among Asian and U.S. leaders on exchange rates weakened the greenback.

The dollar managed a brief rally off lows after Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said the U.S. central bank is attentive to changes in the currency. But as investors digested his comments, they decided there were no signals of change to monetary policy.

Traders focused on the failure of China and the United States to reach an agreement on currencies at an Asia Pacific summit, suggesting China may not be ready to let the yuan rise against the dollar. That prompted investors to sell dollars against free-floating currencies such as the euro. For details, see [ID:nSP43459].

A bigger-than-expected 1.4 percent rise in U.S. retail sales last month encouraged some risk tolerance [ID:nN16371323] on signs the U.S. consumer was stirring, though it was not enough to alter the view that record low U.S. interest rates will persist well into 2010. That left investors continuing to favor higher-yielding currencies and assets over the dollar.

"The data was by and large decent, and since good data at this point isn't going to ease the Federal Reserve's underlying concerns about employment and credit conditions, (the Fed's) not likely to raise rates soon," said Matthew Strauss, senior currency strategist at RBC Capital Markets in Toronto.

The euro rose 0.4 percent to $1.4975 EUR= after breaking above $1.5000 earlier. Sterling rose 0.8 percent to $1.6830 after earlier rising more than 1 percent GBP= while the dollar fell 0.7 percent at 89.05 yen JPY=.

The yen also got a boost from data showing Japan's economy grew at its fastest pace in more than two years between July and September.

Rising risk appetite lifted the Australian dollar to a 15-month high AUD=. It last changed hands at $0.9373, up 0.4 percent from late Friday.

The dollar index, a calculation of the dollar's performance against six currencies, fell to a 15-month low with the strength in the euro, the yen and the pound.


Bernanke caused the highlight of the New York session however, even if his impact was fleeting.

Speaking at the Economic Club of New York, Bernanke said the Fed's mandate will help ensure the dollar remains strong. For details, see [ID:nN16514940]

The dollar immediately jumped off the day's lows with investors finding it unusual for a Fed chairman to talk on the dollar. Usually dollar statements are made by Treasury or White House administration officials.

But investors ultimately focused on Bernanke's comments on the outlook for interest rates.

"Bernanke's comments were really pretty vacuous, and two-year (Treasury debt) yields have actually nudged lower, which is reason to sell the dollar," said Richard Franulovich, senior currency strategist at Westpac in New York. "So he ended up undermining the dollar by talking dovishly on rates staying low for an extended period."

Even before the dollar gave up any gains, Camilla Sutton, senior currency strategist at Scotia Capital in Toronto, was already cautious that the Bernanke impact would be fleeting.

"I don't think it changes the outlook for monetary policy, and our call is still that they won't raise rates until the third quarter of 2010," Sutton said.


Investors were also encouraged to sell the dollar against major currencies because the outlook for its exchange rate against China's yuan remained clouded.

A communique at the close of a two-day Asia Pacific summit in Singapore omitted a reference to "market-oriented exchange rates," suggesting China may not be ready to let the yuan rise gradually against the dollar. [ID:nSP43459]

Traders said that bolstered market resolve to sell the dollar against the euro and other freely floating currencies instead.

The disagreement between Washington and Beijing comes as U.S. President Barack Obama visits China this week. (Additional reporting by Steven C Johnson)

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