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Thursday April 13, 2006 - 10:23:00 GMT
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FOREX-Dollar mired in ranges ahead of US data, Easter

FOREX-Dollar mired in ranges ahead of US data, Easter
Thu Apr 13, 2006 6:09am ET9

(Updates prices, adds quotes, changes byline)

By Veronica Brown

LONDON, April 13 (Reuters) - The dollar erased the previous day's gains against the euro on Thursday leaving the market in familiar ranges with investors unwilling to tweak positions before U.S. data and the Easter holiday weekend.

The dollar had rallied after the U.S. trade deficit for February came in narrower than expected at $65.7 billion on Wednesday, the third widest on record but below economists' estimates of $67.5 billion.

But it ended the day only about a third of a percent higher against the euro and analysts said its failure to make more progress meant it was likely to stay within a narrow range, even after U.S. retail sales data at 1230 GMT.

"We had fairly erratic movements after the trade data yesterday ... that's probably what we're going to get again today. If the retail numbers surprise in one direction, you may get a very sharp movement but then a subsequent reversal back to where we were before the number," Westpac currency strategist Geoff Kendrick said.

"Those levels may continue for the next few days through thin New York trading on Friday and Monday until we get the Fed minutes on Tuesday night."

Retail sales are expected to rise 0.5 percent in March from the previous month, when they fell 1.4 percent. Strong data could support the case for more rate rises from the U.S. Federal Reserve after a widely expected increase to 5 percent in May.

By 0939 GMT, the euro was about 0.12 percent up on the dollar at $1.2120 and was broadly flat versus the yen at 143.51, just over a yen below a record high hit earlier this week.

The dollar was changing hands at 118.41 yen, little moved on the day.

A trader at a Japanese bank said investors were likely to take profits after U.S. retail sales, to square positions before the long Easter weekend in markets outside Japan.

Japan's Sumitomo Life Insurance said on Thursday it was going to increase its yen bond holdings in the current fiscal year, echoing recent comments from its competitors.

Japan's state pension fund said it will put most of the 8.7 trillion yen of new money for the current business year into domestic bonds.

With Japanese bond yields rising in anticipation of higher official interest rates, the yen could benefit in the coming months as investors choose to invest at home rather than abroad.


One of the biggest movers of the day was the New Zealand dollar, which jumped more than 1 percent at one point to hit a three-week high against the U.S. dollar after retail sales came in stronger than expected. It was last at US$0.6217.

The kiwi had fallen around 13 percent from the year's high as a range of downbeat economic data suggested the central bank would be forced to cut interest rates, eroding its advantage over other currencies.

"Very soft retail sales and consumer sentiment has been a key driver of NZD weakness in 2006, but today's data reverses some of that sentiment," UBS said in a research report.

But it added that "the prospects of rate cuts from June onward should continue to constrain" the currency.

Elsewhere, the Swiss franc gained about a quarter percent versus the dollar and hit a two-week high versus the euro , with the "safe haven" currency supported by rising geopolitical tensions over Iran's nuclear programme.

Earlier this week, Iran said it had produced its first batch of enriched uranium and would now pursue industrial-scale enrichment.


Some dealers said investors may also have become cautious about buying the dollar before a Treasury Department report due next week on foreign capital flows into the United States, which have helped to finance the huge U.S. trade deficit.

The dollar found fleeting support on Thursday after China set the mid-point of the yuan's exchange rate at 8.0248 to the dollar, down 0.16 percent from a day earlier and the yuan's biggest overnight fall since its July revaluation.

Chinese President Hu Jintao is due to visit Washington next week as the yuan has shown signs of a quickened appreciation, hitting a post-revaluation high of 8.0022 on Monday.

© Reuters 2006. All Rights Reserved


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