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Thursday May 18, 2006 - 21:26:59 GMT
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FOREX-Dollar falls on Snow's comments on China, forex

FOREX-Dollar falls on Snow's comments on China, forex
Thu May 18, 2006 4:59 PM ET

By Amanda Cooper

NEW YORK, May 18 (Reuters) - The dollar staged a broad fall on Thursday, giving up the previous day's gains after U.S. Treasury Secretary John Snow again urged China to increase the yuan's flexibility.

His comments forced the dollar to session lows against the yen, which is viewed as a proxy for the illiquid yuan, and pushed the U.S. unit lower against other major currencies.

Snow, who testified on international economic and exchange rate policies to the U.S. Senate Banking Committee, reiterated his dissatisfaction about the pace of China's efforts to further loosen up its currency regime.

Currency investors also reacted to Snow saying policy makers should refrain from commenting on the foreign exchange markets right now.

One strategist said this is a tacit acceptance on the part of U.S. officials of a decline in the greenback to help adjust global imbalances.

However, for the time being the dollar should remain fairly well supported despite Thursday's decline, as this short-term corrective pattern is intact, analysts said.

"Even though the euro has rebounded and the dollar could not sustain yesterday's momentum, we still made lower highs in the euro for the second consecutive day. So although dollar fans will be disappointed today, the bigger picture is that momentum could be slowly but surely changing," said Tim Mazanec, senior currency strategist at Investors Bank & Trust in Boston.

At least in the short term, he said, $1.2850 should provide sturdy resistance for the euro, with $1.2690 the next possible downside target. A breach above this level could herald a return to $1.29 and above, he said.

By late afternoon in New York, the euro was up nearly 0.7 percent against the dollar at $1.2820, while the dollar was slightly lower against the yen at 110.94 yen .

Against the Swiss franc, the dollar was down 0.5 percent at 1.2086 francs , while sterling rose 0.3 percent to $1.8895 .

Comments by Richmond Federal Reserve President Jeffrey Lacker also helped the dollar. He struck a hawkish note when he told reporters after a banking conference that the U.S. inflation outlook was "at the borderline of acceptable." See [nN18247767] for details.

Lacker's remarks heightened growing concern that inflation may be accelerating at a faster pace and warrant more policy tightening from the Fed that could jeopardize economic growth.

Snow's comments followed remarks from European policy-makers this week, most notably French Finance Minister Thierry Breton on Wednesday, who have stepped up their rhetoric against dollar weakness after the currency's sell-off following a meeting of the Group of Seven economic powers last month.

The G7 called on emerging countries, especially China, to adopt more currency flexibility to fix global imbalances.

Also on Thursday, the government said U.S. initial jobless claims rose last week to a seasonally adjusted 367,000 due to a partial government shutdown in Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory. For details, see [ID:nN18404970]. The unexpectedly large number had little impact on the currency market.

Analysts said the dollar, which has been under heavy downward pressure, has become a two-way bet again after Wednesday's data showing U.S. consumer prices rising at a faster-than-expected pace in April suggested the Fed may have reason to raise rates again at its next meeting in late June.

"I think the near-term dollar outlook is a little bit mixed now, although investors still prefer to try to sell the dollar on rallies from a strategic or long-term point of view," said Nick Bennenbroek, vice president for foreign exchange research at Brown Brothers Harriman in New York. (Additional reporting by Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss)

© Reuters 2006. All Rights Reserved.


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