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Monday May 8, 2006 - 20:57:01 GMT
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FOREX-Dollar near flat, awaiting FOMC rate decision

FOREX-Dollar near flat, awaiting FOMC rate decision
Mon May 8, 2006 4:48 PM ET

(Updates prices, adds comment)

By Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss

NEW YORK, May 8 (Reuters) - The dollar traded flat to slightly higher against major currencies on Monday, except against the yen, as investors halted their dollar selling ahead of Wednesday's Federal Reserve policy meeting when the central bank is expected to raise interest rates again.

"We've got profit-taking going on (following) the dollar's losses posted over the past week," said Ron Simpson, director of global currency analysis at Action Economics in Dobbs Ferry, New York.

The dollar had earlier fallen to one-year lows against the euro, Swiss franc and sterling amid increased expectations for rate hikes in the euro zone and Britain.

It also dropped to an eight-month trough against the yen after news that Japan's central bank was pressing ahead with mopping up excess liquidity.

"The market is pretty much on the fence as to what the FOMC (Federal Open Market Committee) announcement is going to tell us," Simpson said. "Markets are also a little short of dollars, but we can't see the dollar falling in a straight line. We'll probably see more position-squaring going into the Fed meeting."

The Fed is widely expected to raise its benchmark federal funds rate target by a quarter-percentage point to 5 percent on Wednesday, but signal a pause in the current round of tightening. The U.S. central bank has raised interest rates 15 consecutive times.

That consensus scenario was given more credibility by weaker-than-expected U.S. jobs data on Friday, which sparked the latest round of heavy dollar selling.

By late afternoon, the euro was trading at $1.2712, down 0.1 percent from late Friday. It had traded as high as $1.2787 before surrendering all of its gains in the New York session.

In the euro zone, strong investor sentiment data for April supported forecasts for another rate hike from the European Central Bank in June.

The dollar was up 0.1 percent at 1.2277 Swiss francs while sterling was flat at $1.8588

The dollar pared losses against the yen to last trade down 0.8 percent on the day at 111.63 yen . Bank of Japan Governor Toshihiko Fukui said on Sunday that Japan was removing excess liquidity from the short-term money market and it would take another few weeks to complete the process.

Analysts said Fukui's comments could once gain fuel speculation that Japan might raise interest rates sooner than expected, perhaps as early as the third quarter.

Markets were also anticipating the U.S. Treasury's report on currency practices of key trade partners on Wednesday at 4 p.m. EDT (2000 GMT), with the key focus on whether China will be named a country that manipulates its currency.

U.S. Treasury spokesman Tony Fratto said on Monday the department is convinced China is moving toward adopting increased currency flexibility, though it would like to see China do it faster.

Analyst said Fratto's comments suggested China may not be named currency manipulator, although they said this does not indicate that investors would refrain from selling the dollar.

"A decision not to cite China as a manipulator would ... lead us to assume that a deal had been reached between Washington and Beijing in getting China to commit with a modest currency move, such as another token 1.8- to 2.1 percent revaluation in the coming months," said Ashraf Laidi, chief currency analyst at MG Financial in New York.

"We expect a short-lived upward kneejerk reaction in the dollar in case China is left out, before further retreat in the currency," he added.

© Reuters 2006. All Rights Reserved


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