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Tuesday April 18, 2006 - 10:59:35 GMT
Reuters - www.reuters.com

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FOREX-Dollar holds steady before Fed minutes

FOREX-Dollar holds steady before Fed minutes
Tue Apr 18, 2006 6:35am ET171

(Updates prices, adds comments, changes byline)

By Katie Hunt

LONDON, April 18 (Reuters) - The dollar stabilised against most major currencies on Tuesday, ahead of minutes from the Federal Reserve's March meeting that could shed light on when U.S. interest rates will peak.

The dollar slid more than one percent against the euro on Monday on rising geopolitical concerns over Iran's nuclear programme and as investors sensed that the cost of borrowing in the United States might not rise much further.

"People are holding off before the U.S. data. The move we saw yesterday was very large, to some extent exaggerated by thin liquidity," said Adarsh Sinha, FX strategist at Barclays Capital.

"People might be hoping for a dovish minutes. There's still a lot of division over when they should stop hiking rates," Sinha said.

The minutes of the Fed's latest rate-setting meeting are due at 1800 GMT.

Analysts said overall dollar sentiment would probably remain negative, with the dollar hitting a two-month low against the safe-haven Swiss franc, as Iran tensions sent oil prices to record highs and gold to a fresh 25-year high above $617 an ounce.

"The sentiment is turning dollar negative -- probably the biggest factor putting the dollar under pressure is the rise in oil prices and rise in gold prices," BNP Paribas senior currency strategist Ian Stannard said.

"On oil -- there's probably more of a risk aversion move taking place on the back of concerns with regards to supply which is a negative for the dollar," he added.

By 1020 GMT, the euro was at $1.2264, up slightly on the day, having gained around one percent on Monday.

It was up 0.2 percent at 144.62 yen, closing in on the record high of 144.92 yen scored earlier this month.

Most European markets were closed on Monday.

The dollar rose 0.12 percent on the day to 117.93 yen , up from around 117.79 yen in late New York trade on Monday.

The dollar was down a third of a percent against the Swiss franc at 1.2757 francs, after hitting its lowest level since early February at 1.2744 francs earlier in the session.

The dollar was pressured in Monday trading by a Friday Wall Street Journal report that said some Federal Reserve officials are not convinced they need to keep raising interest rate beyond May.

INFLATION HINTS

The U.S. producer price index for March will provide hints about the state of inflation, while figures for housing starts will show whether weakness in the once-booming market is spreading. The data are due at 1230 GMT.

Fed officials also may give hints on their thinking, with San Francisco Fed President Janet Yellen speaking on the prospects for the economy at 1545 GMT.

Meanwhile, the euro is seen having more room to strengthen given views the European Central Bank will boost rates gradually in the months ahead.

The market showed muted reaction to comments that Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke made earlier in the month which were reported for the first time late on Monday.

Bernanke said in an April 5 letter to a Republican Congressman that the run-up in energy prices since late 2003 would not have a lasting impact on U.S. inflation as long as the Fed conducts policy appropriately.

China's currency policy will be in focus this week as the country's president, Hu Jintao, visits the United States.

Washington has urged Beijing to let the yuan appreciate more quickly, saying an undervalued currency gives China an unfair edge to its exports and fuels the massive U.S. trade surplus.

The yuan finished weaker against the dollar on Tuesday but traders said it could hit new highs as Hu seeks to ease trade frictions during his visit.

© Reuters 2006. All Rights Reserved.

 

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