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Thursday March 31, 2005 - 07:49:38 GMT

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The dollar retreated further on Thursday from a five-month high against the yen as investors eyed jobs and inflation data that could boost expectations for U.S. interest rates to rise more quickly.

Dealers in Japan said they were reluctant to trade before taking a look at the Federal Reserve's favored inflation reading due at 13h30 GMT, as well as the monthly U.S. jobs report and the Bank of Japan's tankan survey of business sentiment on Friday.

The dollar fetched around 107.15 yen as of 06h00 GMT, down 0.3 percent from late New York levels and below a five-month high of 107.70 yen hit on Wednesday.

The euro was little changed at around $1.2920 and held above a six-week low around $1.2860 hit on Monday.

Trading was subdued in Asia, as Japanese companies and banks close their books for the fiscal year ending on Thursday.

The market showed little initial reaction to comments from South Korea Prime Minister Lee Hae-chan on Thursday that the country's foreign exchange reserves could reach $230 billion by the end of the year, and that such a level would be too much.

In remarks at a forum published by online news providers, Lee said the government viewed $150 billion to $170 billion as an appropriate level of reserves, compared with the current, record level of $206.82 billion.

Ahead of the U.S. payrolls data investors will scour the core PCE price index for clues about whether evidence of building inflation pressures in the U.S. consumer price index is spreading to other gauges.

Any sign of rising pressures could bolster the case for more aggressive Fed credit tightening. So far the Fed has steadily pushed up its funds rate to 2.75 percent, compared with the euro zone's 2 percent and Japan's virtually zero percent.

The Fed's warning last week that it could raise rates at a faster pace to counter inflationary pressures added fuel to the dollar's rebound this month.

The core PCE index in February is expected to show a rise of 0.2 percent, in line with January and keeping the year-on-year pace at 1.6 percent. As for payrolls, economists' median forecast is for 220,000 more jobs in March, below the 262,000 jobs added in February but still suggesting solid employment growth.

Some traders said the dollar would likely rally on a strong jobs number, unlike earlier in March when traders dumped the currency despite the strong February data.

The dollar may face little resistance on the upside against the yen because most of Japan's exporters have already sold dollar forwards to hedge currency risk for the upcoming fiscal half year, said Kikuko Takeda, currency analyst at Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi.

She said the dollar was buoyed against the yen on expectations for big Japanese institutional investors to buy more U.S. stocks and bonds in the fiscal year starting Friday.

Dealers will also take a close look at the quarterly tankan on Friday, which is expected to show business sentiment improved marginally. A strong reading could heighten foreign investors' interest in Japanese stocks and support the yen.

Backing a view that Japan's economy is clawing its way out of a soft patch in growth, the Purchasing Managers Index rose to 52.6 in March, a five-month high and up from 51.7 in February, according to NTC Research/Nomura/JMMA. The PMI gives a snapshot of manufacturing activity.


EURO/DOLLAR: The euro remains in corrective mode and will find interim resistance at $1.2990/1.3000 and key resistance at $1.3075/1.3100. While capped here, the market will remain offered and our attention will remain on the $1.2730/00 major support - this is the recent low and the location of the long term uptrend.


DOLLAR/YEN: No change in view, the dollar looks to be stalling just ahead of the long term downtrend at 108.15. In this vicinity we also find the 50 percent Fibonacci retracement at 108.30 and this represents a tough resistance band for the market - initial failure is likely. Dips are expected to find interim support at 106.30/15. Currently our view is that we will see initial failure at this level however longer term we increasing view the market as a potential base and as a consequence expect to see an eventual break of 108.15.

DOLLAR/SWISS FRANC: The dollar continues to consolidate below tough near term resistance at 1.2090/1.2100. Near term dips are expected to remain well supported at 1.1850 and while above here our near term upside bias is maintained. The 1.2080/1.2100 zone is the approximate location of the 200 day moving average and the 78.6 percent retracement of the move from 1.2262 to 1.1475.


STERLING/DOLLAR: Sterling continues to correct higher near term, this is serving to alleviate the RSI, which was oversold. Rallies will find resistance at $1.8865/1.8930 and while capped here, this rebound will be viewed as corrective only and the market will remain under pressure. The recent break below $1.8650 (the 18 month support line) leaves the market on the defensive and our focus is currently on the $1.8510 February low - failure here would complete a substantial top and target $1.7475/1.7300 longer term.




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