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Friday May 26, 2006 - 10:02:36 GMT
Reuters - www.reuters.com

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FOREX-Markets range-bound ahead of U.S. PCE, holidays

FOREX-Markets range-bound ahead of U.S. PCE, holidays
Fri May 26, 2006 5:52 AM ET

(Adds quotes, updates prices, changes byline)

By Toni Vorobyova

LONDON, May 26 (Reuters) - The dollar held steady against the euro on Friday, with currencies stuck in ranges ahead of much-awaited U.S. inflation data later in the session and a long weekend in the United States and Britain.

After tumbling last week to one-year lows against the euro and sterling and eight-month troughs versus the yen, the dollar got respite this week from investor caution over a global sell-off in emerging markets, stocks and commodities.

The spike in volatility has made many wary of taking big positions in currencies for now, while the dollar and U.S. Treasuries have benefited from investors yanking funds out of riskier assets.

UBS said its risk index edged up to 1.1 from 1.49, but still remained in extremely risk averse territory, which should be supportive for safe-haven currencies such as the Swiss franc.

With holidays due on Monday in both the United States and Britain and after Thursday's Ascension Day holidays in much of Europe, market players had more reason to cover short positions.

"It's hard to read too much into these moves at the moment, it's just positioning and speculative movements," said Adam Baines, currency strategist at Citigroup.

At 0924 GMT, the euro held steady against the dollar at $1.2810 .

The Swiss franc was a touch firmer on the day versus the greenback at 1.2157 francs .

The yen was about 0.1 percent down versus the dollar at 111.94 yen and a quarter of a percent down against the euro at 143.45 yen , with some investors disappointed after core Japanese CPI failed to come in above expectations.

PCE NEXT FOCUS

For more clues on whether the Federal Reserve hikes rates at its June policy meeting from the current 5 percent, traders were looking to the U.S. core personal consumption expenditures (PCE) index, the inflation gauge most closely watched by the Fed.

The core PCE for April, due at 1230 GMT, is expected to show a monthly rise of 0.2 percent after a 0.3 percent rise in March.

"Core CPI inflation came in a tenth of a percent higher than expectations (in April). It's adding to these inflation fears that people have been speaking about in the U.S.," said Johan Javeus, FX strategist at SEB Merchant Banking in Stockholm.

"I guess that risks (to the PCE) are on the upside and that could provide some support for the dollar," he added.

The market is divided over whether the Fed will lift its funds rate for a 17th straight time to 5.25 percent in June. Those repeated rate increases helped fire the dollar's 15 percent rally against the euro and the yen last year.

Another increase would help the dollar keep its yield advantage over the euro and yen, even as the European Central Bank is poised to press ahead with more rate rises and the BOJ prepares to start doing so soon.

ECB, BOJ HIKES EYED

German May preliminary harmonised consumer price inflation came in at a monthly 0.2 percent and an annual 2.1 percent, in line with consensus and slightly softer than in April.

The euro found some support after European Central Bank governing council member Erkki Liikanen said "the direction of interest rates is upwards". Markets are widely expecting the ECB to raise rates in June from the current 2.5 percent.

ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet speaks at 1000 GMT, and ECB Executive Board member Gertrude Tumpel-Gugerell at 1035 GMT.

The yen was unable to get a boost from data showing core consumer prices in Japan rose 0.5 percent in April from a year earlier, the sixth straight increase and providing more evidence that seven years of deflation are history.

However Japanese government officials remained cautious, with finance minister Sadakazu Tanigaki saying that it was too early to claim that deflation had been overcome, even though conditions are improving.

The inflation figures matched forecasts and dented the yen, which had garnered support the previous day on expectations of an even bigger pick-up in core inflation.

The Bank of Japan is increasingly expected to boost overnight rates from zero as soon as July.

© Reuters 2006. All Rights Reserved.

 

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