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Saturday June 24, 2006 - 11:46:24 GMT
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FOREX-Dollar caps strong week at 2-mth highs as Fed eyed

FOREX-Dollar caps strong week at 2-mth highs as Fed eyed
Fri Jun 23, 2006 4:39pm ET169

(Recasts, updates prices)

By David McMahon

NEW YORK, June 23 (Reuters) - The dollar rallied to two-month highs against the euro and the yen on Friday, boosted by firming expectations that the Federal Reserve will boost interest rates next week and will probably raise them again in August.

The dollar posted its third straight week of gains against a basket of six major currencies <.DXY>, as investors anticipated another rate hike by the Fed on June 29 to ward off inflation.

Some investors even see a slim chance that the Fed might raise rates by half a percentage point next week, departing from the quarter-point increases it has delivered at each of its last 16 meetings.

"The market has got a whiff of the possibility of a 50-basis-point hike by the Fed next week, and that's likely to keep supporting the dollar heading towards the meeting," said Richard Franulovich, foreign exchange strategist at Westpac in New York.

Reflecting such expectations, U.S. Treasury prices slid for the eighth straight session, nudging the benchmark two-year note yield up to 5.27 percent, the highest since late in 2000.

The dollar rallied to a fresh two-month high against the yen for the second day in a row, on growing speculation that the Bank of Japan's first interest rate rise in six years may be pushed back later than July.

Data showing that new orders for U.S.-made durable goods unexpectedly fell 0.3 percent in May did nothing to dent the dollar's rally. For details, see [nN23198922].

The greenback also rallied to a two-month high against the euro, with the European single currency most recently trading down 0.5 percent at $1.2515 , having touched a bottom just below $1.2480.

The greenback also hit a two-month high against the Swiss franc and last traded up 0.5 percent at 1.2480 francs.

The dollar rose as high as 116.60 yen , later retreating to around 116.50 yen.

Bank of Japan Governor Toshihiko Fukui is embroiled in a scandal over his investment years ago in an equity fund run by a financier indicted on suspicion of insider trading.

Although Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and ministers have strongly backed the BOJ chief, the yen is under pressure from speculation that Fukui may resign, which could delay the timing of the BOJ's first rate rise in six years.

"The dollar's major strength is a result of the (U.S.) interest rate story," said Matthew Strauss, senior currency strategist at RBC Capital Markets in Toronto. "Then there are questions on the timing of a rate increase in Japan."

The yen has given up all the gains against the dollar it had made after a meeting of Group of Seven finance ministers in April that called on Asian countries such as China to let their currencies rise more freely.

The dollar fell as low as around 109 yen in May, driven by speculation that the G7 was comfortable with seeing a weaker dollar to help cut the gaping U.S. trade deficit and fix global imbalances.

The dollar has also gained this week on the back of a big sell-off in the currencies of emerging market currencies, particularly those with large external deficits such as South Africa's rand and the Turkish lira .

The dollar surged around 8 percent against the rand on the week, spurred by data on Thursday that showed South Africa's current account deficit swelled to a 24-year record.

(Additional reporting by Nick Olivari and Amanda Cooper in New York)

© Reuters 2006. All Rights Reserved.


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