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Tuesday April 11, 2006 - 10:35:41 GMT
Reuters - www.reuters.com

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FOREX-Euro steadies as market absorbs ECB, ZEW messages

FOREX-Euro steadies as market absorbs ECB, ZEW messages
Tue Apr 11, 2006 6:05 AM ET164

(Updates with ZEW data, ECB's Mersch, changes byline)

By Carolyn Cohn

LONDON, April 11 (Reuters) - The euro steadied against the dollar on Tuesday as upbeat comments from euro zone policymakers counterbalanced weak data on the euro zone's largest economy.

European Central Bank Governing Council members Yves Mersch and Klaus Liebscher heightened expectations of a steady pace of euro zone rate rises from the current 2.5 percent, saying there was still a need to act on inflation.

But the euro veered off course after the closely-watched ZEW survey of German investor sentiment unexpectedly fell to 62.7 in April from 63.4 in March, against expectations for a rise to 65.

"The (ECB) comments are another part of the concerted efforts made since the (Trichet) press conference to realign market expectations with the current ECB thinking -- this suggests that a June rate hike is now the favoured option by the ECB," said Kamal Sharma, currency strategist at Bank of America.

"The market had been positioned for a stronger (ZEW) number, but we had a slightly weaker outcome than expected and that has weighed on euro sentiment."

The euro was steady from the U.S. close at $1.2123 at 0925 GMT, off four-day highs of $1.2144 hit just ahead of the ZEW data.

But the euro remained firm against the yen, up more than a quarter percent at 143.70 yen , though more than one yen below record highs set last week.

The euro fell two percent from a seven-month high against the dollar last week after ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet seemed to smother expectations for a rate rise in May, following the ECB's monthly monetary policy meeting.

"We saw quite an aggressive move in the euro last week in response to Trichet's dismissing the chance of a May rate hike and the comments this morning have tempered that a little bit," said Ryan Shea, senior market strategist at State Street.

The dollar was also 0.2 percent firmer versus the yen, at 118.54 yen . A break through resistance at 118.80 yen would take the dollar to four-week highs.

The Bank of Japan kept its near-zero rate policy unchanged on Tuesday, and BOJ Governor Toshihiko Fukui said the central bank was likely to be able to keep short-term interest rates very low as long as inflation was contained.

TALK THE TALK

The ECB still had to deliver on price stability and was not at the end of its rebalancing process, Mersch told reporters on the sidelines of a news conference in Luxembourg.

Mersch also said the ECB was viewing inflation risks very closely and vigilantly, but that such ECB codewords could be unhelpful.

Markets were wrong footed by Trichet's comments last week, as most market participants thought recent data and ECB language signalled a May rate hike.

Liebscher, was quoted as saying there was still "a need for action on inflation", and did not rule out upward revision to the bank's growth forecast for this year, in an interview with Bloomberg News posted on its website.

BOJ ON HOLD FOR NOW

BOJ Governor Fukui's comments cemented the market consensus that the BOJ will hold off from raising overnight rates until the third quarter. With a rate rise still far off, traders said the prospects for policy elsewhere were key to currency moves.

The dollar rose at the end of last week on solid U.S. jobs data that traders said supported the view that the Federal Reserve would raise rates again from the current 4.75 percent, after an expected tightening to 5 percent in May.

With the future of U.S. monetary policy seen depending on incoming economic data, traders were expected to scrutinise a run of U.S. numbers later this week including the trade deficit and retail sales for clues about the Fed's action beyond May. Continued ...

© Reuters 2006. All Rights Reserved

 

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