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Thursday April 20, 2006 - 00:31:04 GMT
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FOREX-Dollar hits 7-month low vs euro on rate pause view

FOREX-Dollar hits 7-month low vs euro on rate pause view

(Updates prices, adds quote, China's Hu comments)

By Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss

NEW YORK, April 19 (Reuters) - The dollar fell to seven-month lows against the euro on Wednesday as a bigger-than-expected rise in core U.S. consumer prices failed to shake expectations that interest rate hikes will soon end.

That outlook was further bolstered by comments from San Francisco Federal Reserve President Janet Yellen. In an interview on CNBC, she said that with U.S. growth expected to slow and inflation expectations contained, the Fed is pretty close to being done with its string of rate increases.

Her remarks were consistent with the tenor of the minutes of last month's Fed policy meeting, released on Tuesday.

"On balance, she was pretty consistent with the tenor and tone of the FOMC minutes. This is consistent with the idea of a pause at five percent," said Alan Ruskin, chief international strategist at RBS Greenwich Capital.

"There was not much of a dollar reaction because her comments were not terribly fresh," said Ruskin, but he noted that market sentiment on the dollar remained negative overall.

The euro rose to seven-month peaks around $1.2394 before edging back to $1.2383 in late afternoon trading, still up 0.3 percent from late on Tuesday.

The euro also hit a record high against the yen at 145.45 yen, but last traded at 145.02, still up 0.3 percent on the day. Traders said strong buying from Japanese investors fueled a technical upward move in this currency pair.

The dollar traded flat against the yen at 117.12 yen , after climbing as high as 117.95 yen.

Also on Wednesday, Chinese President Hu Jintao, on the second day of a five-day trip to the United States, said China's objective was to increase flexibility of the exchange rate between the yuan and dollar. But he gave no details.

His remarks had marginal impact on the market, with analysts disappointed that Hu did not say more.

"From the headlines, it's clear that the Chinese will pursue their own policy. They're going to resist international pressure and will modify their currency regime according to their own schedule," said Brian Dolan, director of FX research at Gain Capital in Bedminster, New Jersey.

Earlier on Wednesday, the release of data showing a rise in the core U.S. consumer price index briefly lifted the dollar from multi-month lows against major European currencies. For details, see [ID:c.1000 ].

But the gains soon faded as investors decided one economic report alone would not alter the Fed's thinking.

"Even though CPI was a little warmer than expected, the market has come to the realization that interest rate hikes are coming to an end and a major pillar of support for the dollar has been removed," said Ron Simpson, managing director of global currency analysis with Action Economics in Dobbs Ferry, New York.

Against the Swiss franc, the dollar fell 0.2 percent to 1.2664 francs. The dollar climbed as high as 1.2760 francs after the CPI report, though it traded at a three-month low of 1.2666 prior to its release.

Sterling was last up 0.5 percent at $1.7923 after it vaulted to about a three-month peak around $1.7935. Minutes from the Bank of England Monetary Policy Committee's last meeting showed a 7-1 vote to keep rates steady at 4.5 percent. (Additional reporting by Jamie McGeever)>

© Reuters 2006. All Rights Reserved


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