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Thursday April 6, 2006 - 10:58:51 GMT
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FOREX-Euro riding high ahead of ECB, hits record vs yen

FOREX-Euro riding high ahead of ECB, hits record vs yen
Thu Apr 6, 2006 5:49 AM ET

By Ana Nicolaci da Costa

LONDON, April 6 (Reuters) - The euro hit a record high against the yen and a seven-month high versus the dollar on Thursday, in anticipation of an European Central Bank meeting where officials are expected to point to a rate hike in May.

The ECB is seen keeping rates on hold at its policy meeting later in the day but investors will scrutinise ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet's news conference for clues on how much further the bank plans to tighten credit. Prospects for higher rates make it more attractive to invest in the single currency.

"Now I think there's a risk scenario to all of this just because so much is priced in. And that's basically related to the sharp run-up we've seen in the euro in the past few days," said Adarsh Sinha, currency strategist at Barclays Capital.

"To some extent that might make the ECB a bit reluctant to convey too hawkish a message at this point at least."

By 0940 GMT, the euro had hit 144.82 yen , its highest level since the single's currency launch in January 1999.

Against the dollar, the single currency hit a seven-month high at $1.2333 and was trading up 0.25 percent on the day.

"Assuming everything pans out as the market is expecting -- in other words a hawkish statement from Trichet today and an in-line (U.S.) employment report tomorrow -- then I think the market is certainly going to test pretty quickly the post Hurricane Katrina level of just below $1.26," said Derek Halpenny, currency economist at Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi. The ECB is expected to keep rates at 2.5 percent on Thursday. Its policy announcement is due at 1145 GMT, followed by Trichet's news conference at 1230 GMT.


The euro's rally against the pound and the dollar has been enhanced by the contrasting rate outlooks between the euro zone and these other economies

While the ECB looks set to keep on raising rates, the Bank of England is widely expected to keep rates steady at 4.50 percent when it announces its rate decision at 1100 GMT and recent comments by BoE officials suggest they are in no hurry to move on rates any time soon.

The euro rose as far as 70.20 pence earlier, just below Wednesday's 15-month high of 70.21 pence. It last stood at 70.08.

As for the Fed, speculation is growing that the U.S. central bank may be approaching the end of its near two-year long monetary tightening cycle, a view reinforced by comments from Fed officials this week.

This helped the dollar hit a two-month low <=USD> against an index of currencies and a two-month low versus the Swiss franc at 1.2807.

The dollar was steady versus the yen at 117.35 yen .

Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher said late on Wednesday that U.S. first-quarter growth would exceed economists' expectations and that inflationary pressures "appear to be under control".

Dollar bulls were hoping that a strong reading for the monthly U.S. jobs report on Friday might revive expectations that the Fed's tightening may continue for a while.

Chicago Fed President Michael Moskow is expected to speak later in the day.

The Fed has raised rates 15 times since mid-2004, pushing its funds rate to 4.75 percent. The run of hikes was a major driver behind the dollar's rally last year.

© Reuters 2006. All Rights Reserved.


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