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Thursday April 20, 2006 - 10:46:58 GMT
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FOREX-Dollar moves off 7-month low vs euro, data in focus

FOREX-Dollar moves off 7-month low vs euro, data in focus

(Updates price, adds quotes, changes byline)

By Veronica Brown

LONDON, April 20 (Reuters) - The dollar edged up from the previous session's seven-month low against the euro on Thursday ahead of a key U.S. business activity survey that could give further clues on when U.S. interest rates might peak.

Low borrowing costs in Japan were cited as a broad pressure on the yen, which fell to a record low against the euro for the second day running.

The dollar has been under broad pressure this week after the Federal Reserve signalled its two-year campaign of raising short-term rates was nearly over. The International Monetary Fund said on Wednesday the dollar needed to fall significantly to help fix global imbalances.

Now the market is looking to the Philadelphia Fed's business activity survey for April, due at 1600 GMT.

"Overall sentiment hasn't changed significantly, obviously we've had a reversal and the selling has ceased temporarily... But the strength of the dollar has been relatively modest," Derek Halpenny, currency economist at Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi, said.

By 1020 GMT, the dollar was up nearly a third of a percent at $1.2347, having fallen to a seven-month low of $1.2394 on Wednesday.

The single European currency was steady against the yen, having earlier hit a lifetime peak of 145.49.

Sterling took a hit, falling half a percent on the day against the dollar, after weaker than expected inflation figures.

"We might see a pullback to $1.23 or $1.2280 (euro/dollar) but we see buying interest there. The dollar is weighed down by this interest rate speculation -- the Fed might end the hiking cycle at maybe 5 percent -- and the IMF comments," said Antje Praefcke, currency strategist at Commerzbank in Frankfurt.

The dollar was up 0.3 percent at 117.56 yen .

Chinese President Hu Jintao helped ease speculation about greater yuan strength or flexibility against the dollar during his trip to the United States this week, saying the yuan was not ready for a drastic change in value.

Euro zone consumer prices for March eased to 2.2 percent year-on-year from 2.3 percent in February, in line with forecasts. In the United States, Fed chairman Ben Bernanke speaks via satellite.


The outlook for central banks and short-term rates is still the dominant factor in currency markets, with the Fed's change of tone driving the dollar down more than 2 percent against the euro so far this week.

With the European Central Bank seen raising short-term rates to 3 percent or possibly higher this year and the Bank of Japan expected to push rates up from zero sometime in the third quarter, the dollar's rate advantage is seen eroding.

CB Governing Council member Axel Weber said central banks need to remain vigilant to the risk of second-round effects from high oil prices in order to anchor inflation expectations.

The minutes of the Fed's March meeting said that many central bankers felt they were nearly done with tightening policy and recognised the risk of pushing rates up too far.

San Francisco Fed President Janet Yellen said in an interview with CNBC on Wednesday that growth was expected to slow, and with inflation contained, the Fed was pretty close to taking a break.

The Fed is still widely expected to raise rates to 5 percent at its next policy meeting in May but then take a break from the string of credit tightening launched in June 2004, when the fed funds rate was 1 percent.

Even a surprisingly big pick-up in the March core consumer price index did little to boost the beleaguered dollar.

"The market seems unfazed by the CPI data. Sentiment has already shifted and is more positive on the euro," said Sharada Selvanathan, currency strategist at BNP Paribas in Singapore.

Looking ahead, Barclays analysts said in a note to clients that this weekend's G7 meeting in Washington could result in a change in its statement to strengthen language on elimination of global trade imbalances.

"The market may interpret any shift in this direction as acceptance by G7 authorities that reducing imbalances is becoming a higher priority and such a shift in emphasis is generally USD negative," the bank said.

© Reuters 2006. All Rights Reserved.


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