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Thursday March 3, 2005 - 10:04:33 GMT

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Dollar off highs on Greenspan's budget warning


The dollar hovered below a one-week high against the euro on Thursday, kept in check by Federal Reserve chief Alan Greenspan's warning that the United States should tackle its budget deficit.

While Greenspan also told Congress that the U.S. economy is growing at a reasonably good pace, his focus on budget problems rather than healthy growth disappointed dollar bulls looking for hints the Fed could speed up its credit tightening campaign.

But hopes for a strong U.S. jobs report on Friday kept the dollar supported, while the currency was also helped after another Fed official said the U.S. economy is close to full employment.

As of 06h25 GMT, the euro fetched $1.3130; little changed from late U.S. levels and up from a one-week low of $1.3088 hit on Wednesday.

The Australian dollar traded near 78.20 cents, slightly below late U.S. levels and not far from Wednesay's three-week low of 77.70 after data on Wednesday showed poor retail sales in January.

The Aussie tumbled a day earlier on data showing Australia's economy slowed sharply in the final quarter of last year.

The numbers raised speculation that Australia's tightening cycle may have run its course after its central bank raised rates by a quarter-percentage point to 5.50 percent on Wednesday.

Against the yen, the dollar was around 104.85 yen, up slightly from 104.75 yen in late U.S. trade. Japanese exporters were to believe to be keeping the dollar's gains versus the yen contained, traders said.

Traders are setting up for Friday's U.S. payrolls report for February and betting that a hefty number of jobs were created, leaving the dollar exposed to any increase below forecasts.

Wall Street economists expect around 220,000 new jobs for February, compared with 146,000 the previous month, according to the median forecast in a Reuters poll. The jobless rate is seen unchanged at 5.2 percent.

Fed Governor Edward Gramlich said late on Thursday that the U.S. economy is getting close to "most definitions" of full employment, though he also said inflation should remain stable.

But San Francisco Fed President Janet Yellen said shortly afterwards there is still quite a bit of slack in the economy than the low jobless rate suggests.

Market players are also looking ahead to a policy meeting by the European Central Bank (ECB) later in the day. While most believe the ECB will keep its benchmark interest rate unchanged at 2 percent, some are curious to see whether the central bank will keep its tightening bias.

The ECB has been wary on inflation due to a strong credit expansion and booming housing markets in some euro zone countries, but sagging growth in the 12-country bloc is complicating the picture.

ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet is due to hold a news conference at 13h30 GMT, following its policy decision announcement at 12h45 GMT.


EURO/DOLLAR: Decline to $1.3090 is probably only the first leg of deeper reaction to $1.3010 plus and possibly $1.2940.


DOLLAR/YEN: Contracting consolidation in the form of a triangle pattern continues. While this may force another day or so of 104.10-105.20 range trade as short-term 105.60 resistances contains, stay bearish for deep test of 101.65-80 support. Only a rally over 106.90 would reverse.


STERLING/DOLLAR: Sterling correction is underway. As tight resistance at the $1.9160 level contains, expect an initial downside target of $1.9010-20. However, there is scope for a deeper decline to about $1.89 over the next few days, as the market regroups to continue uptrend.


@13h30 GMT: U.S. Weekly Jobless Claims, U.S. Q4 final Non-farm Productivity

@15h00 GMT: U.S. February Non-Manufacturing ISM


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