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Monday June 5, 2006 - 21:47:49 GMT
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FOREX-Bernanke helps dollar to session highs vs euro, yen

FOREX-Bernanke helps dollar to session highs vs euro, yen
Mon Jun 5, 2006 5:23pm ET12

(Updates prices, adds quotes, adds comments from central bankers panel)

By Steven C. Johnson

NEW YORK, June 5 (Reuters) - The dollar rose against the euro and yen on Monday after Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said the central bank would remain vigilant in its attempts to stem a rise in core inflation.

That increased market expectations the Fed would raise interest rates later this month and pushed the euro down to $1.2907, near its $1.2902 session low.

Speaking at an international monetary conference in Washington, Bernanke said he was concerned about core inflation, which has reached levels that, if sustained, would be at or above the upper end of the range he views as consistent with price stability.

"He was definitely more hawkish than the market thought he would be, and that's given the dollar a bit of fresh air," said Firas Askari, head of foreign exchange trading at BMO Nesbitt Burns in Toronto.

After Bernanke's comments, fed funds futures showed as high as a 76 percent chance of a 17th consecutive rate increase from the Federal Reserve in June, up from 48 percent on Friday, when a weak May payrolls report made many dealers favor a June pause.

"It's interesting how the foreign exchange market has done so much agonizing on whether or not the Fed hikes, and it seems to be a pendulum that keeps swinging back and forth," said Lara Rhame, currency strategist at Credit Suisse in New York.

At the same conference, European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet offered no insight into the bank's plans, though he did say the euro zone has more persistent inflation than the United States.

Markets widely expect the ECB to hike rates at its policy meeting on Thursday, and a recent spate of strong euro zone data helped the currency hit a one-year high of $1.2980 against the dollar in overnight trade.

Against the yen, the euro was still up 0.35 percent on the day at 144.87. The dollar was up 0.45 percent against the yen at 112.22, near its session peak of 112.30.

Also at the Washington conference, Bank of Japan Deputy Governor Toshiro Muto warned that unwinding global imbalances could not be done through currency moves alone, which traders said was also boosting the dollar against the yen.


Many market participants said Monday's gains, however, do not signal an end the dollar's longer-term woe. The U.S. currency has shed more than 9 percent against the euro since the start of 2006 and almost 5 percent against the yen.

Indeed, some traders noted that the market was severely short dollars heading into Bernanke's remarks and was looking for an excuse to cover these positions.

Currency speculators in Chicago's International Monetary Market boosted their net long positions in the euro to a record 79,884 contracts in the week to May 30, data from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission showed.

"I still think the dollar is in serious trouble," said Askari. "And it's clear to the markets that there are a series of rate hikes coming from the ECB, while the Fed, if it isn't done now, will probably be done after one more move."

Earlier Monday, the dollar showed little reaction to the Institute for Supply Management's service index for May, which came in at 60.1, very close to expectations. For details, see [ID:nN0576987].

© Reuters 2006. All Rights Reserved.


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