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Friday February 18, 2005 - 09:52:20 GMT

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Euro near latest highs as dollar and yen flounder

The euro stood near a two-week high against the dollar and a 1 1/2-month peak versus the yen on Friday after upbeat economic data offered little help to the U.S. currency while Japan's stagnant economy weighed on the yen.

Analysts said weakness of the dollar and yen was fuelling euro gains despite a lack of fundamental reasons to buy the single currency after data this week showed sluggish fourth-quarter growth in the euro zone.

But the dollar's quick reversal of its gains this week despite a raft of favorable economic news underscored the market's negative view of the U.S. currency, some analysts said.

The dollar gave back all of the rise it made after U.S. data on Thursday showed a surprisingly strong jump in mid-Atlantic manufacturing and weekly jobless claims falling to the lowest level since late 2000.

Similarly the dollar failed to maintain its jump after Federal Reserve Chairman signaled on Wednesday that more steady rate rises are ahead, which would widen the yield advantage of dollar deposits over those in euro and yen.

The yen remained under selling pressure after gross domestic product figures released on Wednesday showed that Japan's economy was in a recession for much of last year.

With a dearth of economic news in Japan on Friday and a U.S holiday next Monday, currencies idled in Asian trade.

At 06h10 GMT, the dollar was trading near $1.3070 against the euro, close to late Thursday New York levels. The dollar has eased about 2.5 percent against the euro since hitting a three-month high around $1.2730 last week.

The dollar was also little changed at 105.50 yen. Traders expect dollar/yen to tread in a tight range, with buying in the 105.30 area and sell orders at around 105.70 yen.

The single European currency was at 137.90 yen, threatening to extend its climb to 138 yen, a level not seen since Jan. 7.

The market eyed European and U.S. releases, including euro zone industrial production for December, German inflation in January and U.S. producer prices for January. ECB Vice President Lucas Papademos is also due to give a speech on monetary policy.

The currency market showed limited reaction to the second day of Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan's testimony to Congress on Thursday.

Greenspan's statement was identical to a speech he delivered the previous day in which he said U.S. interest rates remain "fairly low", indicating they would continue to rise.

The Fed chief's testimony ended a series of major economic events this month, and analysts said market movements would be driven by fundamentals and carry trades in the near term.

With volatility expected to be low in currency markets, some investors have borrowed in low-yielding yen and sold the currency to buy higher-yielding currencies like the Australian dollar and British pound.

Sterling slipped a tad against the dollar to $1.8935 but was close to a six-week high above $1.8978.

The market's conflict between the dollar boon of rising U.S. interest rates and persistent worries about U.S. deficits was seen keeping currency rates in limbo until a direction is set.

EURO/DOLLAR : It's all about the $1.3100/30 zone, either this is the cap or not. A break leaves $1.3380 open, favoring selling instead for $1.30 again, then $1.2930/00. Still like $1.27 and lower but still worried about the crowd of pundits who are looking for near-term dollar gains and then new dollar lows. Chances are the market will either just sell the dollar off instead, or leave the dollar to firm and firm further. Favor the latter, lonely crowd though!

DOLLAR/YEN : Still like the basing play, needs to crack on though.

@ 13h30 GMT: US. January PPI

@ 14h45 GMT: US. February University of Michigan Sentiment Survey

Some U.S. markets will close early ahead of the President’s day holiday on Monsday.


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