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Tuesday July 18, 2006 - 10:21:05 GMT
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FOREX-Euro hits 4-week lows after weak German ZEW data

FOREX-Euro hits 4-week lows after weak German ZEW data
Tue Jul 18, 2006 6:06am ET168

(updates prices, adds reaction to German data, changes byline)

By Katie Hunt

LONDON, July 18 (Reuters) - The euro fell to its lowest in almost a month against the dollar and sterling on Tuesday, taking a knock after a key German investor sentiment index fell more than expected in July, hurt by a surge in oil prices.

The Mannheim-based ZEW economic research institute said its economic expectations indicator for Germany, based on a survey of 293 analysts and institutional investors, fell for a sixth straight month to 15.1 in July from 37.8 in June and was worse than economists' forecast of 35.0.

"It is much weaker than market expectations and it's weighing on the euro," said Niels From, currency strategist at Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein in Frankfurt. "It shouldn't change European rate expectations too much as most recent data has been strong," From added.

All but one of the 65 economists polled by Reuters last week forecast the European Central Bank will raise interest rates by a quarter percentage point to 3.0 percent on Aug. 3, with rates then seen rising once, and quite possibly twice more by the year-end.

Investors are waiting for U.S. inflation data due over the next two days and testimony by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke on Wednesday to the Senate Banking Committee.

They should shed some light on the likelihood of an August Fed rate rise and, given the uncertainty of such a move, investors scaled back dollar positions built up the previous day on geopolitical tensions in the Middle East.

By 0945 GMT, the euro was down against the dollar hitting its lowest since June 23 at $1.2496.

The euro fell a third of a percent against the pound to hit a 4-week low of 68.53 pence , with sterling also helped by stronger-than-expected June UK inflation data.

The euro was also a third of a percent weaker against the Japanese currency at 146.46 yen .

The dollar was 0.2 percent weaker at 116.94 yen , off the previous day's three-month peak of 117.28 yen.

RE-FOCUS ON FUNDAMENTALS

On Monday, the dollar had been supported as the escalating conflict between Israel and Lebanon-based Hizbollah guerrillas sent investors scrambling for dollar-denominated safe havens of gold and U.S. Treasuries. It also prompted some U.S.-based players to repatriate cash from riskier assets.

On Tuesday, Israeli planes pounded Lebanon, killing at least 23 people as diplomatic efforts brought no signs of an early end to the week-old assault launched in retaliation against Hizbollah attacks.

But analysts said the conflict was now largely priced into the market and it would take a major development -- positive or negative -- to spark further currency moves.

In the U.S., Tuesday sees the release of producer price data for June, with core PPI forecast up 0.2 percent on the month and the headline rate at 0.3 percent.

The data will be a precursor for the more closely-watched consumer prices data due on Wednesday. The inflation numbers together with the tone of Bernanke's testimony may shed some light on the likelihood of an 18th consecutive rate rise from the Fed this August, to 5.5 percent.

For the dollar to renew its ascent, traders said the CPI data and Bernanke would have to help cement expectations for another rate increase.

In New Zealand, expectations of a cut in interest rates this year were quashed on Monday after second quarter consumer price inflation data came in at a 16-year high.

The data continued to support the New Zealand dollar on Tuesday, helping it to gain one percent on the day against the U.S. currency to a five-week high at US$0.6280 . Interest from corporate Japanese investors and a break through a key technical level at US$0.6220 also boosted the kiwi.

© Reuters 2006. All Rights Reserved

 

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