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Wednesday May 31, 2006 - 02:16:30 GMT
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Forex: Dollar dips, fails to maintain rebound on Paulson

Dollar dips, fails to maintain rebound on Paulson
Tue May 30, 2006 10:01 PM ET

By Hideyuki Sano

TOKYO, May 31 (Reuters) - The dollar slipped on Wednesday, extending a sharp fall the previous day after data showed that U.S. consumer confidence hit a three-month low.

The currency failed to sustain a brief rise on Tuesday after U.S. President George W. Bush nominated Goldman Sachs Chairman Henry Paulson for Treasury secretary.

Traders said the dollar remained vulnerable to the perception -- sparked after the Group of Seven finance ministers met last month -- that G7 countries want to see the dollar gradually fall to reduce the huge U.S. current account deficit.

"We maintain our bearish mid- to long-term view on the dollar as Paulson is unlikely to change the current U.S. stance of calling for more appreciation in Asian currencies," said Tohru Sasaki, chief forex strategist at JPMorgan Chase Bank in Tokyo.

The dollar initially rose on the Paulson announcement due to thinking in the market that a Treasury chief from Wall Street would likely want to keep the dollar strong.

"The dollar's failure to rise on positive factors yesterday seems to indicate that sentiment for the dollar is very weak," said Takehiko Jimbo, forex manager at Mitsubishi UFJ Trust and Banking.

By 0140 GMT, the dollar was at 112.05 yen , down slightly from 112.15 yen in late U.S. trade.

Tokyo traders said that month-end selling of the yen by Japanese mutual funds meant the yen would likely be capped on Wednesday.

The euro was little changed at $1.2865 and 144.30 yen .

The dollar fell about 1 percent against the euro on Tuesday. It extended losses after the Conference Board reported its index of U.S. consumer confidence fell in May to a three-month low of 103.2, although that topped expectations for 101.1.


Many traders suspected that currency policy in the United States would not drastically change if Paulson took the reins of the Treasury Department.

"No matter who heads the Treasury, that won't change the fact that the G7 and the IMF have an intention to lower the dollar to fix global imbalances," said Jimbo at Mitsubishi Trust.

G7 finance ministers last month called on developing Asian countries to let their currencies appreciate in order to help fix "global imbalances" -- code for the huge trade deficit in the United States and surpluses in Asian nations such as China.

Comments from Chicago Fed President Michael Moskow to CNBC television on Tuesday that U.S. inflation was at the upper end of his comfort zone, suggesting he favours more interest rate hikes, also failed to give the dollar much support.

"For the dollar to rise, the market needs a conviction that the Fed will raise rates and also that U.S. inflation will be contained," said Sasaki at JPMorgan Chase.

Many investors say that the Fed, which has raised rates at 16 straight policy meetings since mid-2004, is in a difficult position as it needs to weigh the potential for higher inflation and concerns about a slowdown in the housing sector.

Some economists say that inflationary pressure will cool as the U.S. housing market is showing signs of slowing after its hyper activity of the past few years.

The market will look for more insight to the Fed's thinking in minutes of the central bank's May 10 policy meeting, due to land at 1800 GMT.

As tight labour conditions and rising wages tend to boost inflation, many investors are also keen to see the U.S. jobs report due on Friday.

© Reuters 2006. All Rights Reserved.


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