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Thursday March 10, 2005 - 09:33:41 GMT

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Dollar hits 2-mth low versus euro on reserves talk


The dollar fell nearly half a percent to two-month lows against the euro on Thursday after comments from Japan's Prime Minister raised speculation about Asian central bank diversification away from the U.S. currency.

The foreign exchange market has been particularly sensitive to any signs of a change in reserves after a South Korean central bank report that referred to reserve diversification triggered a fall in the dollar last month.

The euro rose as far as $1.3456, its highest since Jan. 4, its third day of gains and two cents below record highs set in December. It was trading at $1.3436 at 08h40 GMT, a third of a percent higher on the day.

The euro also hit 2005 highs against the yen at 140 yen.

The dollar stabilized against the yen just above 104 yen, finding support from data showing Japan's core machinery orders fell 2.2 percent in January from a month earlier, worse than market expectations for a rise of 2.4 percent.

The dollar hit one-month lows below 103.65 yen on Wednesday.

The New Zealand dollar rose to its highest in almost 23 years at US$0.7449 after New Zealand's central bank raised interest rates by a quarter percentage point to 6.75 percent, pushing the highest interest rates in the developed world to a new peak.

Worries that major central banks will diversify away from the dollar have been a negative for the greenback in recent weeks.

Soon after Koizumi's comments, a senior Finance Ministry official told Reuters that it had no plan to change the composition of currencies in Japan's $840.6 billion foreign reserves -- the largest in the world.

Japan's vice finance minister Koichi Hosokawa later told a news conference there were currently no plans to change the composition of currencies.

Any central bank shift away from dollars is seen as likely to make it harder for the United States to attract sufficient flows to finance its huge current account deficit, the main factor behind the dollar's losses to record lows against the euro in December.

The main focus this week for dollar investors remains Friday's U.S. trade data, which is expected to show the deficit widened to $56.50 billion in January from $56.40 billion in December, a move closer to record levels hit late last year.

European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet and Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan both speak later on Thursday.

Meanwhile, currencies of countries with high interest rates continued to attract funds.

Rising commodity and energy prices have also helped the Australian dollar and currencies of other commodity and energy exporters.

The Australian dollar, whose key rate stands at 5.50 percent, was trading within sight of a one-year high hit this week at US$0.7889.

The Canadian dollar breached the C$1.20 per U.S. dollar barrier on Wednesday, hitting its highest in nearly two months, and was trading close to C$1.20 on Thursday.

With UK interest rates the highest among G7 countries, sterling fetched around $1.93, in sight of Tuesday's two-month peak of $1.9325.

The Bank of England was expected to keep the key interest rate unchanged at 4.75 percent when it announces policy at 12h00 GMT, but some analysts said there was an outside chance of a rate hike.

Sterling underperformed the euro, however, and was trading near earlier seven-week lows of 69.75 pence.


EURO/DOLLAR: Having reached our upside target around $1.3450, we favor very messy and nervous consolidation around here today and tomorrow. The euro is overbought and momentum is steadily bullish. Chart levels are unlikely to hold well making for tricky trading conditions. Over the next week or two we shall allow for very messy work roughly between $1.3200 and $1.3500 with potential `spikes' outside here. Only a weekly close well above $1.3600 or a sustained break above $1.3700 hints that the long term trend to US dollar weakness has resumed. Until then we shall not rule out another sudden downside test towards $1.2900 where a new interim low and long term base should form.


DOLLAR/YEN: Generalized yet fairly cautious US dollar selling continues and it is only a matter of time before the yen breaks below the bottom of the Ichimoku `cloud'. The US dollar is not oversold, and bearish momentum has increased. For today, while below 104.50/104.80 yen downside pressure should increase, setting off a sustained break below 103.65 late today/next week and triggering a slide to 103.20 and possibly key support around 101.70.


STERLING/DOLLAR: Cable is taking a back seat, as expected, and should continue to consolidate at these higher levels. While above trend line support at $1.9185 we shall allow for a series of very cautious upside tests over the coming week or two, with prices probably holding below $1.9450 most of the time. Only a weekly close above $1.9500 confirms the start of the next round of generalized US dollar selling.


@13h30 GMT: U.S. Weekly Jobless Claims

@15h00 GMT: U.S. January Wholesale Inventories


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