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Monday April 10, 2006 - 11:07:01 GMT
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FOREX-Dlr weakens after rally on rates outlook

FOREX-Dlr weakens after rally on rates outlook
Mon Apr 10, 2006 6:55 AM ET167
By Ana Nicolaci da Costa

LONDON, April 10 (Reuters) - The dollar weakened on Monday after Friday's rally, but remained off recent seven-month lows against the euro after last week's U.S. jobs report reminded investors the U.S. central bank still had room to raise rates.

Expectations that the Fed was approaching the end of a near two-year long tightening cycle gathered pace last week before a strong March jobs report showed the U.S. economy was still on solid footing.

This hardened expectations that the Fed will lift its funds rate for a 16th straight time to 5 percent at its next meeting in May, and maybe even beyond that, just as the European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet dashed expectations for a euro zone rate rise in May last week from the current 2.5 percent.

"The reverberations of Trichet's comments on Thursday, which have dampened expectations of a May rate hike, are really continuing to dominate market sentiment," said Kamal Sharma, currency strategist at Bank of America.

"Probably there was an excessive amount of negativity towards the dollar in the last week or so and payrolls have injected a degree of realism into the outlook for Fed rates."

U.S. President George Bush said the jobs report was evidence of an overall economic resurgence "that is strong and broad and benefiting all Americans".

The dollar rallied 15 percent last year against the euro and the yen on the back of a U.S. tightening campaign that kicked off in mid-2004.

At 1027 GMT the dollar was down 0.2 percent against the euro at $1.2111 . It hit a seven-month low against the single currency at $1.2333 last week, but rallied two percent at the end of last week.

The dollar hit a one-week high against the yen at 118.48 and the euro was also 0.24 percent higher at 143.45 yen , but down from a record high of 144.92 hit last week.

The yen fell after Japanese Vice Finance Minister Koichi Hosokawa reiterated the ministry's recent statements that a rapid rise in Japan's long-term interest rates would harm the economy at a time when it remains in mild deflation.

"The comments (from Hosokawa) about long-term yields have put a dampener on interest rate expectations, and that started the yen falling," said a trader from a U.S. bank. "People are putting carry trades back on."

The BOJ is expected to keep its near-zero rate policy unchanged at this week's meeting, but the consensus is for the BOJ to raise overnight rates in the third quarter, which would be the first such action in six years.


In other news, President Jacques Chirac's office said on Monday France will scrap a planned youth job contract that has provoked mass protests and strikes.

Also in the political sphere, Italians vote for a second and final day in a bitter election that could end Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's five-year rule and return the centre left to power.

French industrial output excluding construction fell 0.9 percent in February versus January, figures showed on Monday, but the data had no immediate impact on the market.

A survey by the Sentix research group for April showed investors' optimism about the current situation in the euro zone is at its highest level in five years, but they are more guarded about the outlook for the second half of 2006 and 2007.

The DIW economic research institute said on Monday it expected Germany's gross domestic product (GDP) to expand by 0.3 percent in the first three months of 2006, adjusted for working days and seasonal swings.

Fed Board Governor Mark Olson speaks at 1215 GMT, followed by Fed Board Governor Susan Schmidt Bies at 1245 GMT, and comments from a press briefing given by ECB chief economist Otmar Issing are due at 1500 GMT.

© Reuters 2006. All Rights Reserved.


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