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Wednesday May 3, 2006 - 23:57:35 GMT
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FOREX-Dollar down vs most majors on rate outlook

FOREX-Dollar down vs most majors on rate outlook
Wed May 3, 2006 4:56 PM ET

(Adds dollar index, updates prices)

By Nick Olivari

NEW YORK, May 3 (Reuters) - The dollar eased against major currencies on Wednesday as investors shrugged off strong U.S. economic data and debated whether the Fed will soon pause in the current rate tightening cycle.

Though the U.S. currency spiked higher, paring losses after Japanese Finance Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki said that financial markets misunderstood a G7 statement which investors took as a call for the dollar to weaken, his comments were not enough to offset the bearish sentiment toward the dollar other than against the yen.

Two separate reports showing that the U.S. services and manufacturing sectors were running at a robust pace also failed to push traders into letting the dollar rally too far because they have not changed their view that the Fed will soon pause in its rate-raising campaign.

The dollar index <.DXY>, the dollar against a basket of currencies, has fallen almost 3 percent in the last two weeks and remains mired at a 12-month low. It closed at 85.84 on Wednesday.

"It's the same story we have seen the last several weeks," said John Beerling, regional foreign exchange trading desk manager at Wells Fargo in Minneapolis. "The market is so dollar-bearish it does not matter what kind of news we see."

The dollar has been under heavy selling pressure since the Group of Seven finance chiefs' statement on currencies last month, which traders interpreted as a thinly veiled call for the dollar to weaken.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke then said last week that the Fed might take a time-out in its rate-raising cycle.

"There was a change in tone," said Ashraf Laidi, chief currency analyst at MG Financial in New York. "It was the first time he contemplated the need for a pause and that, in and of itself, was a signal the market was looking for."

Late afternoon in New York, the euro was at $1.2626, up almost 0.1 percent on the day, bouncing back from $1.2589 after the U.S. data.

The dollar was also down 0.1 percent against the Swiss franc at 1.2364 francs , while sterling was up 0.1 percent at $1.8420 .

The dollar rose as high as 113.86 yen after Tanigaki said the G7 statement does not mean the dollar needs to decline. It last traded up 0.3 percent against the yen at 113.67 yen .

Although traders had been waiting for Fed chief Bernanke to talk on the economy or monetary policy in a speech on Wednesday, he steered clear of those topics and took no questions.

The Australian dollar remained strong and was last up about 1.1 percent on the day at $0.7701 , after the Reserve Bank of Australia raised interest rates earlier for the first time in 14 months, by a quarter-point to 5.75 percent.

The New Zealand dollar pared gains then recovered after reports of an earthquake measuring 8.1 hitting the Tonga Islands. The quake initially prompted a tsunami warning for Fiji and New Zealand, although the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center later canceled the warning.

Kiwi/dollar was last at $0.6418, up 0.4 percent, though it had dipped as low as $0.6390. It remained well off the day's high of $0.6444. For details see [nL03793116].

Two U.S. economic reports caused short-term action in the dollar.

The Institute for Supply Management said its gauge of activity in the giant U.S. services sector rose to 63 in April, its highest since August. [ID:nN03362323].

In a separate report, the government said factory orders rose by 4.2 percent in March. [ID:nCAT001014]
© Reuters 2006. All Rights Reserved.


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