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Wednesday April 26, 2006 - 10:42:33 GMT
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FOREX-Euro finds resistance, just off 7-mth high vs dlr

FOREX-Euro finds resistance, just off 7-mth high vs dlr
Wed Apr 26, 2006 6:31am ET171

(Updates prices, adds fresh quotes, changes byline)

By Toni Vorobyova

LONDON, April 26 (Reuters) - The euro hovered close to the previous day's seven-month high against the dollar on Wednesday as strong euro zone data and comments from top European Central Bank officials suggested the pace of interest rate increases could accelerate.

But analysts said the euro's recent rally was tempered by tough resistance above $1.24 levels after its break last week above the $1.18-1.23 range which had held since the start of 2006.

ECB executive board member Lorenzo Bini Smaghi said that if the European economic recovery strengthened, the central bank would adjust rates to avoid inflation, in comments published in an Italian newspaper.

Meanwhile, ECB governing council member Axel Weber told Bloomberg television that risks of second-round inflation effects had risen.

Most analysts expect the ECB to wait until June before raising rates from 2.5 percent after ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet earlier this month doused widespread expectations for a move as soon as the May 4 meeting.

"We are gently exploring the upside for euro/dollar but there is significant resistance and it is going to take some time to test the upside," said Teis Knuthsen, head of FX and Fixed Income Research at Danske Markets in Copenhagen.

The euro was slightly lower on the day at $1.2416 at 0959 GMT but hovering near a seven-month peak close to $1.2440 struck on Tuesday on the back of an unexpected rise in the April German Ifo sentiment index to a 15-year high.

On Wednesday, data showed a bigger than forecast rise in euro zone industrial new orders in February, a further indication that the 12-nation economy is firmly on the recovery path and should be able to cope with higher rates.

However industrial production was flat on the month in February, against expectations for a small rise.


The dollar rose a quarter of a percent to 115.11 yen, pulling further away from a three-month low below 114.25 yen hit on Monday, after the G7 meeting at the weekend called on China and other emerging economies to let their currencies rise.

The euro rose 0.1 percent to 142.96 yen, recovering from a one-month low below 141.50 yen struck the previous session.

The yen's rise has been tempered by signs that Asian countries are not very keen on sharp currency appreciation, including market intervention from the Korean central bank on the won and comments from Japan's finance minister that rapid foreign exchange moves are undesirable.

"We had such strong moves on Monday morning after the G7 and the story that people really bought into was that now Asian currencies should strengthen and the dollar should fall on a broad basis," said Knuthsen at Danske Bank.

"But on a practical level this will take a long time."


Wednesday also sees interest rate decisions in Norway at 1200 GMT and New Zealand at 2100 GMT.

The Norwegian crown was steady versus the dollar ahead of the announcement, with the Norges Bank widely expected to keep rates at 2.50 percent this month and hike in June. But ABN AMRO's analyst Mikael Nilsson said the bank may soften its tone in light of the crown's recent strength.

The New Zealand dollar, meanwhile, was about 0.4 percent firmer versus the greenback, continuing its recovery from last month's trough as better than expected data dampens expectations of a rate cut. For now, its central bank is seen holding rates at 7.25 percent.

In the United States, March new home sales data at 1400 GMT will be eyed after it posted the biggest fall in nearly nine years in February, stoking worries of a sharp slowdown. Sales are seen rising a tad to a 1.10 million annual pace versus 1.08 million.

The data will be of particular interest after Tuesday's numbers showed a pick up in existing homes sales in March, defying expectations for a slowdown.

"People are looking at today's housing data just to see if a drop in the existing number is actually true or not. Some people like to look at housing data as a leading indicator," said Bilal Hafeez, currency strategist at Deutsche Bank.

At 1800 GMT, the Fed will release its beige book report, a summary of economic conditions in the country that central bankers will have in hand for their May 10 policy meeting. Fed chief Ben Bernanke is slated to testify before Congress on the economic outlook on Thursday.

© Reuters 2006. All Rights Reserved


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