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Thursday March 4, 2010 - 11:07:34 GMT
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FOREX NEWS - Euro pares Greece-driven gains; ECB awaited

5:22am EST

* Euro eases below $1.37, investors await ECB

* Greece launches sale of 10-year govt bonds

* ECB seen holding rates steady, more exit steps

* BOE also seen keeping rates on hold, focus on asset buying

* Dlr/yen hits 3-mth low, dragged down by cross/yen fall

(Adds quotes, updates prices)

By Tamawa Desai

LONDON, March 4 (Reuters) - The euro gave back on Thursday gains made after Greece's latest austerity package had encouraged investors, and risk-taking was subdued before central bank policy decisions in Europe and key U.S. jobs data on Friday.

Focus was also on the results of Greece's highly anticipated sale of 5 billion euros worth of 10-year government bonds on Thursday [ID:nATH005260], a day after it unveiled plans for a further $6.5 billion in pay cuts and tax hikes to cut its deficit.

The European Central Bank is expected to hold interest rates at a record low 1.0 percent and outline the next steps in its gradual withdrawal from emergency lending measures. [ID:nLDE6220UL]

The market focus will be on whether it announces any change to the extra liquidity it has provided for the banking system, particularly a shift to competitive auctions for the three-month operations. Traders will also be listening to ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet's remarks on Greece.

"It could be enough of a hawkish angle to give the euro a modest boost," said Daragh Maher, deputy head of FX strategy at Credit Agricole CIB.

"If the mood regarding Greece improves further and Trichet is supportively hawkish, we will likely see the exchange rate re-test overnight highs," he said.

By 1002 GMT, the euro eased 0.3 percent to $1.3651, after hitting a two-week high of $1.3736 the previous day on trading platform EBS. It hit a 9-1/2-month low of $1.3433 on Tuesday.

The ECB will announce its decision at 1245 GMT. Trichet will hold a news conference at 1330 GMT.

Results of Greece's syndicated bond issue were due out later in the day.

"The success of the issue is critical," analysts at RBC Capital Markets said.

Data on Thursday showed confirmed euro zone economic growth at 0.1 percent in the last three months of 2009.

The Bank of England also concludes a policy meeting, with a decision due at 1200 GMT, where it is also expected to keep rates unchanged. Policymakers have said they will leave the door open for more quantitative easing, though analysts believe the BoE will not move this month.

The pound stood at $1.5059 <GBP=D4>, down 0.2 percent on the day. It was off Wednesday's high of $1.5131 hit after traders covered short sterling positions which had sent it to a 10-month low below $1.48 on Monday.


The greenback fell to a three-month low of 88.14 yen, dragged down by falls in yen crosses and short-term speculators aiming to trigger loss-cutting orders below 88.00 yen.

Comments from a deputy governor of China's central bank that Chinese inflation expectations can be controlled [ID:nTOE62301C] also prompted traders to cut long dollar/yen positions.

The dollar was last flat on the day at 88.48 yen <JPY=>.

Traders expect it to hold above the psychologically key 88.00 yen level, but direction may be determined by Friday's U.S. jobs data. Economists have forecast non-farm payrolls fell 50,000 in February, according to a Reuters poll.

"The market is factoring in a weaker figure, so any upside surprise would prompt the dollar to be bought back against the yen," one Tokyo-based trader said.

Government documents showed Japan was set to raise its borrowing limit for foreign exchange intervention for the first time in six years, stirring talk the government may be signalling its willingness to intervene if needed to curb yen strength. [ID:nTOE62306R]

The dollar index <.DXY> was up 0.3 percent at 80.2. Short-term support seen around the 79.6 area, its February low. (Additional reporting by Satomi Noguchi in Tokyo, editing by Nigel Stephenson and Toby Chopra)

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