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Thursday June 8, 2006 - 20:37:12 GMT
Reuters - www.reuters.com

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FOREX-Dollar gains as rates hiked, investors shed risk

FOREX-Dollar gains as rates hiked, investors shed risk
Thu Jun 8, 2006 4:15pm ET167
(Updates prices, recasts, adds quotes)

By Steven C. Johnson

NEW YORK, June 8 (Reuters) - The dollar gained for the fourth straight session on Thursday, hitting a one-month high against the euro as investors shed high-risk assets for fear that rising global interest rates could slow economic growth.

The greenback's rally began after the European Central Bank dashed expectations of a half-percentage-point hike in euro zone interest rates, opting for a quarter point instead.

It extended those gains when ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet gave no clear signs that the central bank was set to increase the pace of its monetary tightening, sending the euro to its biggest daily percentage loss in two months.

Aggressive rate hikes from central banks in Turkey, South Korea, India and South Africa and a stream of tough talk on inflation from the Federal Reserve caught markets off guard.

That caused sharp declines in stocks, oil and emerging market assets as investors took profits and parked the cash in dollars and safe-haven assets such as U.S. Treasuries.

"The market pendulum has swung away from chasing returns, which had been the driving theme over the last few years, and toward capital preservation," said Marc Chandler, currency strategist at Brown Brothers Harriman in New York.

By late afternoon, the euro had moved off its session low of $1.2627 but remained 1.06 percent weaker on the day against the dollar at $1.2650 , more than 3 cents below Monday's peak of $1.2980.

Against the yen, the euro briefly hit a record high of 145.69 after the ECB decision but retreated to 144.40 , down 0.54 percent on the day.

The dollar was up 0.54 percent against the yen at 114.13 yen after briefly testing 114.74 yen, a six-week high.

U.S. stocks <.DJI> <.SPX> <.IXIC> bounced off session lows to close near unchanged, while crude oil ended lower.

The dollar index <.DXY> ended New York trade up 0.91 percent at 85.83, the biggest daily gain since January.

"With central banks raising rates, that's pulled the rug out from beneath the commodity boom and favored a retrenchment that has benefited the dollar," said Andrew Busch, global market strategist at BMO Nesbitt Burns in Chicago.

FED, TRADE BALANCE

Recent Fed comments about inflation risks have caused investors to abandon bets in place as recently as Friday that the U.S. central bank would pause in its two-year-long tightening cycle at its next policy meeting in late June.

Late Thursday, fed funds futures put the chance of a hike from 5 percent to 5.25 percent at 80 percent.

Some analysts, however, cautioned that the greenback's current rally could be short-lived.

"Rising risk aversion would probably hurt the currencies of current account deficit countries like the U.S., but be friendly to the euro and Asian currencies," said Michael Jansen, FX strategist at National Australia Bank in New York.

Indeed, the next hurdle for the U.S. currency could come as soon as Friday, when markets will get U.S. international trade data for April at 8:30 a.m. EDT (1230 GMT).

According to a Reuters survey of 73 economists, the U.S. trade deficit is seen widening to $65.0 billion in April from March's $62.0 billion shortfall.

 

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