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Wednesday May 17, 2006 - 22:46:56 GMT
Reuters - www.reuters.com

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FOREX-Dollar gains as France's Breton voices euro concern

FOREX-Dollar gains as France's Breton voices euro concern
Wed May 17, 2006 4:59 PM ET

(Recasts, updates prices, adds comment, changes byline)
By Amanda Cooper

NEW YORK, May 17 (Reuters) - The dollar rallied on Wednesday after French Finance Minister Thierry Breton spooked euro bulls by saying "everything" must be done to stop the single currency from rising too much against the greenback.

Although Breton has no real hand in shaping euro zone monetary policy, his remarks were viewed by some as the opening salvo in official jawboning to stem the dollar's slide since the Group of Seven finance chiefs last month called for Asian currencies to appreciate to correct global imbalances.

Breton said the euro zone economy could withstand a stronger euro but signaled that further strong gains would be unwelcome. For details, see [ID:nPAB002519].

This deterred euro bulls from pushing the currency through the psychologically important $1.30 barrier and accelerated a sell-off that spilled into sterling and the yen.

"Euro area fx policy is a bit different from the U.S. and Japan. The ECB plays a relatively greater role in terms of deciding intervention vis-a-vis the Fed or the BOJ but the finance ministers' comments still matter," said Rebecca Patterson, senior currency strategist at JPMorgan Chase.

"Also, the markets now are going to be very, very sensitive especially to comments from the ECB," she added.

But by late afternoon, the euro had fallen about 0.8 percent against the dollar to $1.2756.

UNEASE OVER RISK

Volatility in emerging markets and declines in commodities such as gold and oil also supported the dollar, as risk-aversion temporarily whetted investor appetite for dollar-denominated assets, analysts said.

Gold fell below $700 an ounce on Wednesday after nearly rising 4 percent from the last New York close, while U.S. oil futures were below $69.00 a barrel.

"Gold is lower and oil is subdued. On top of that, we've seen some volatility in emerging markets. These have unsettled markets in general and effectively helped the dollar," said John McCarthy, director of foreign exchange at ING Capital Markets in New York.

The dollar was also up well over a percent on the yen, at 110.91 yen after hitting an eight-month low at 108.96 yen earlier in the global day, in its largest one-day rise against the Japanese currency since June.

Against the Swiss franc, the dollar was up 0.5 percent at 1.2135 francs , while sterling fell 0.2 percent to $1.8842 . Traders said investors took profits in sterling above $1.90.

The dollar had been under pressure across the board earlier in the day even though data showed U.S. consumer prices, excluding food and energy, rose 0.3 percent in April, higher than market expectations for a 0.2 percent increase. For details see [ID:nN1633705].

Alan Ruskin, chief market strategist at RBS Greenwich Capital in Connecticut said higher inflation has raised fears about a hard landing for the U.S. economy.

"While it encourages the idea that the Fed cannot afford to pause, it will similarly encourage thoughts of a hard-landing." (Additional reporting by Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss)

© Reuters 2006. All Rights Reserved.

 

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