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Wednesday May 3, 2006 - 10:26:36 GMT
Reuters - www.reuters.com

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FOREX-Dollar eyes 1-year low vs euro before Bernanke

FOREX-Dollar eyes 1-year low vs euro before Bernanke
Wed May 3, 2006 6:04am ET14

(Updates prices, adds fresh quotes, changes byline)

By Carolyn Cohn

LONDON, May 3 (Reuters) - The dollar eased towards a recent one-year low against the euro on Wednesday as investors fretted about the U.S. interest rate outlook ahead of a speech by the Federal Reserve chairman and U.S. data later in the session.

Fed chief Ben Bernanke signalled last week rate hikes may pause soon, but since then he has been quoted as playing down the prospect of a pause in rate rises. Bernanke speaks at 1600 GMT.

The U.S. Institute for Supply Management's April non-manufacturing index is due at 1400 GMT and is forecast to fall to 59.2 from 60.5 the previous month. March factory orders are also due at the same time.

"The market will be scrutinising what he (Bernanke) will be saying about how he should be interpreted and he could provide the dollar with some short-term support," said Niels From, currency strategist at DrKW in Frankfurt.

"However, Bernanke has also said that monetary policy going forward will be data-driven, so at the end of the day the market will be looking at economic data."

The euro was at $1.2632 at 0940 GMT, off earlier highs of $1.2669 but up slightly on the day and near Monday's one-year peak at $1.2690.

Sterling extended gains to an eight-month high at $1.8477 . The yen steadied against the greenback to around 113.33 , with Tokyo markets shut for a holiday on Wednesday and for the rest of the week.

RATE VIEW

The interest rate outlook has been supportive for the euro, and strong data on Tuesday further cemented expectations of a rate hike, and to a lesser extent for sterling, with expectations of a cut in British rates are fading fast.

The unemployment rate in the euro zone fell in March to 8.1 percent from 8.2 percent in February, data showed on Wednesday, while producer prices rose by 0.4 percent on the month.

The Swiss franc hit a two-month high against the euro and approached an 8-month high against the dollar .

It was supported by a newspaper interview with Swiss National Bank chairman Jean-Pierre Roth, who said the economy could grow faster than forecast this year and that high oil prices would not weigh on it much.

Analysts also said the franc was propped up by rising risk aversions due to the high oil prices and rising tensions over Iran's nuclear programme.

SOARING DOLLAR BLOC

The Australian dollar jumped one percent on the day to 7-1/2 month highs after Australia's central bank lifted interest rates by a quarter of a point to 5.75 percent, a move that largely surprised markets.

The central bank raised rates for the first time in 14 months in a pre-emptive move to ward off inflation.

"The rate hike was not a consensus call -- a fair number of people expected the RBA to remain on hold," said Marc Levesque, chief strategist at TD Securities.

The Canadian dollar extended its gains to fresh highs at around C$1.1014 per U.S. dollar, levels last seen nearly three decades ago. Analysts said the currency was supported by expectations of more rate hikes in Canada and also by the fact that it had broken past a 1991 low last week and was thus in relatively uncharted waters.

© Reuters 2006. All Rights Reserved

 

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