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Tuesday May 16, 2006 - 20:35:14 GMT
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FOREX-Dollar falls as data hint at softer US growth

FOREX-Dollar falls as data hint at softer US growth
Tue May 16, 2006 4:18 PM ET

(Updates with remarks from Venezuela's Chavez, adds analyst comment, refreshes prices)

By Amanda Cooper

NEW YORK, May 16 (Reuters) - The dollar weakened on Tuesday after data on U.S. housing and producer inflation suggested U.S. interest rates may not need to rise much further after two years of non-stop increases.

Producer prices excluding food and energy rose 0.1 percent last month, half the rate that had been forecast, while April housing starts came in at a 1.849 million-unit rate, below analysts' expectations of 1.95 million. For details, see [nN16403586].

Aside from a relief rally on Monday in line with a sharp fall in commodities prices, the dollar has been unable to sustain a rally, even on the back of seemingly positive economic data.

So a report on inflation at the consumer level, which is due out on Wednesday and which the Federal Reserve scrutinizes for signs of price pressure, may not offer much solace to the dollar, even if it beats forecasts.

"Our mantra is basically largely unchanged, that is, the dollar is still in the midst of a very testing period. The market is only fixated on reasons to sell the dollar and I think the market is going to push the dollar down to levels that will test the mettle of central bank officials," said David Mozina, head of foreign exchange strategy at Lehman Brothers.

"The only sensible circuit-breaker for me near-term is a noticeable uptick in the lip service or verbal jaw-boning by G7 officials, expressing concern about the extreme moves we had this far," he said, adding that such lip-service had been notable for its absence.


By late afternoon trade, the euro was up nearly 0.5 percent against the dollar at $1.2855.

The single currency offered almost no reaction to comments from Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who said Caracas might consider pricing its oil in euros after Iran said it was mulling using the euro instead of the dollar to price its oil exports.

From a technical perspective, the euro is facing some headwinds, analysts say, and daily charts suggest a correction is under way even though the currency is still in a rising trend

. Earlier, European Central Bank Governing Council member Christian Noyer said the euro's rate against the dollar had remained in limited ranges in recent years and noted that Asia was the region where more currency flexibility was seen as desirable.

"Noyer has been trying to shift the adjustment of the dollar's weakness away from the euro," said Brian Dolan, director of foreign exchange research at Gain Capital in Bedminster, New Jersey.

"That took the pressure off the dollar at least against the euro. It (the pressure) remained against the yen and some of the yen crosses are all heavier after Noyer's comments."

The dollar was last down 0.7 percent against the yen at 109.73 yen .

Against the Swiss franc, the dollar was down 0.3 percent at 1.2071 francs , while sterling was up 0.4 percent at $1.8875 .

Earlier in Tuesday's session, government data showed output at U.S. factories, mines and utilities rose by a greater-than-expected 0.8 percent in April.

But this report also did little to support the dollar.

Economists are looking for continued increases in Wednesday's April reading of the consumer price index (CPI), with the headline number expected to show a 0.5 percent increase on the month, while the core number is forecast to have risen by 0.2 percent.

Core CPI is expected to have run at a 2.2 percent pace compared with April last year, after March's 2.1 percent reading -- still above the Fed's 2.0 percent comfort level.

(Additional reporting by Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss)

© Reuters 2006. All Rights Reserved.


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