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Thursday March 11, 2010 - 22:12:43 GMT
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FOREX NEWS-Dollar little changed vs majors in volatile trade

4:12pm EST

* U.S. trade gap narrows, claims higher than forecast

* SNB says would act "decisively" on Swiss franc

* New Zealand dollar falls after RBNZ holds rates (Updates prices, adds comment)

By Wanfeng Zhou

NEW YORK, March 11 (Reuters) - The dollar traded little changed versus major currencies on Thursday after mixed data on U.S. trade and jobless claims failed to give investors direction.

The U.S. trade gap narrowed unexpectedly in January as oil imports fell while the number of U.S. workers filing new applications for unemployment insurance was slightly higher than expected last week, hinting at a slow labor market recovery. For details, see [ID:nN11203719]

"The data released this morning was unable to move the market and especially against the euro, we've seen the dollar in a very tight range over the course of the week," said John Doyle, foreign-exchange strategist at Tempus Consulting in Washington.

"The dollar is really struggling to find direction and I think investors are likely to shift their focus to tomorrow's retail sales number."

The Commerce Department is slated to release U.S. retail sales for February on Friday, with economists polled by Reuters looking for a decline of 0.2 percent.

In late New York trading, the euro was up 0.1 percent at $1.3673 <EUR=>. The euro peaked intraday at $1.3687 with a low of $1.3620, according to Reuters data.

The euro briefly came under pressure after German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the first priority for Greece was to win back the confidence of financial markets and the debt-stricken country's first steps were a positive start. [nAAT010127]

"There's a perception that the Greek austerity plan is only a temporary pause on sovereign debt risk, and there's concern that there could be problems in Portugal, Spain, Ireland," said Michael Malpede, market analyst at Easy Forex in Chicago. "If anything, traders appear to have a preference to sell the euro on rallies."

The dollar <JPY=> was little changed at 90.53 yen, after touching a two-week high on Wednesday.


The Swiss franc earlier fell after the Swiss National Bank said it would act "decisively" to counter any excessive rise in the Swiss currency.

The Swiss central bank's announcement came as it left interest rates on hold and said signs of an economic recovery were becoming more tangible. [ID:nZUX010014] [ID:nWEB5195]

The euro hit a session high of 1.4630 Swiss francs <EURCHF=> and was last flat at 1.4617 francs. The dollar <CHF=> fell 0.1 percent to 1.0688 francs. ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

For a graphic on moves in euro/Swiss franc on previous intervention rumors see: here ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

Sterling rose 0.5 percent to $1.5057 after a slight uptick in inflation expectations, though analysts expected economic and political concerns to keep the pound under pressure ahead of an upcoming general election. [ID:nLDE62A1YO]

The Australian dollar <AUD=> last traded little changed at US$0.9149, swinging between gains and losses after strong Chinese data and a smaller-than-expected rise in Australian employment.

Chinese inflation rose to a 16-month high and other data showed broad-based strength, fueling expectations Beijing may further tighten monetary policy. [ID:nBJL002012]

The New Zealand dollar fell 0.2 percent to $0.7004 after the central bank said there was no urgency to lift interest rates off their current record lows. [ID:nSGE62702P] (Additional reporting by Nick Olivari; editing by Diane Craft)

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