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Saturday April 29, 2006 - 10:37:45 GMT
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FOREX-Dollar tumbles as G7, rates views, Iran weigh

FOREX-Dollar tumbles as G7, rates views, Iran weigh
Fri Apr 28, 2006 4:39 PM ET

(Recasts lead, updates prices)

By Jamie McGeever

NEW YORK, April 28 (Reuters) - The dollar fell against the euro on Friday to its lowest in almost a year, as selling intensified a day after Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke said the U.S. central bank may pause in raising interest rates.

The United States' interest rate advantage over Europe and Japan has helped support the dollar in the past year, but as many now believe that prop will soon disappear, the focus on the negatives for the greenback, such as a huge U.S. trade deficit, have intensified.

After last week's meeting of finance ministers from the Group of Seven major industrialized countries, some officials have said that currency markets have misinterpreted the G7 statement as a call for a decline in the dollar.

U.S. Treasury Secretary John Snow on Friday said the statement, which called for currency appreciation in China and emerging markets in Asia, spoke for itself.

"At another time, Snow's comments might have been more innocuous," said Sophia Drossos, senior currency strategist at Morgan Stanley in New York.

"But in the current environment, where the market perceives the Fed to be nearing an end, they seemed to sanction the market's view that the G7 wants a weaker dollar."

The dollar's slide this week left it on track for its weakest monthly performance against major currencies since September 2003, when the G7 finance ministers met in Dubai and called for increased "flexibility" in global currency markets.

The dollar did not get much support from U.S. economic data on Friday either, after news of robust first quarter growth in gross domestic product but softening inflationary pressures, consumer sentiment and regional manufacturing activity.

By late afternoon in New York, the euro was up 0.8 percent on the day around $1.2630 , just shy of the 11-month high of $1.2640 reached earlier in the day.

Sterling was up almost 1.3 percent against the dollar at $1.8250 after touching a 7-month high of $1.8260, while the greenback was stuck at a seven-month low against a basket of six major currencies <.DXY>, down 0.75 percent.

The dollar was down 0.3 percent against the yen at 113.82 yen, having hit a three-month low of 113.64 yen.

"The ongoing story remains bearish for the dollar," said Charmaine Buskas, FX analyst at Moody's in West Chester, Pennsylvania.

For details on the first quarter gross domestic product data, see [ID:nN28265299]; for more on consumer confidence [ID:nNYJ000065] and more on the Chicago purchasing managers index [ID:nN28392548].

The data did little to shake a near-consensus that the Fed will likely take a break after raising rates by a quarter percentage point in May, after 15 rate rises since June 2004.

"It looks increasingly like the Fed rate hike cycle is coming to an end, and that's been the focus," Buskas said. "... The market is just looking for an excuse to sell the dollar."

The Swiss franc was among the biggest winners against the dollar, shooting up 1.5 percent to 1.2385 francs to the dollar and supported by safe-haven flows as geopolitical tensions surrounding Iran's nuclear program escalated.

Most European markets are closed Monday for Labor Day, and Japanese financial markets will be closed for a part of next week for the Golden Week holiday. (Additional reporting by Nick Olivari)
© Reuters 2006. All Rights Reserved.


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