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Tuesday July 18, 2006 - 23:28:09 GMT
Reuters - www.reuters.com

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FOREX-Dollar posts broad gains as CPI, Bernanke loom

FOREX-Dollar posts broad gains as CPI, Bernanke loom
Tue Jul 18, 2006 4:26pm ET
(Updates prices, adds quote, recasts)
By Steven C. Johnson

NEW YORK, July 18 (Reuters) - The dollar rose to near three-month highs on Tuesday after a report showing higher U.S. producer prices in June suggested the Federal Reserve may keep lifting interest rates to combat inflation.
The greenback also gained as data showed the United States attracted a net $69.6 billion of capital inflows in May, more than enough to cover that month's trade deficit of $63.8 billion.

But the dollar pared gains slightly in late trade as investors moved to the sidelines ahead of Wednesday's consumer price data release and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke's semi-annual testimony before Congress.

The market will monitor both events closely, hoping they shed light on the path of U.S. interest rates.

"The real event risk comes tomorrow and you're likely to see investors lighten up a bit (on dollar holdings) to reduce risk ahead of it," said Paresh Upadhyaya, currency strategist at Putnam Investments in Boston.

Investors will scrutinize the CPI data for any signs of higher inflation, which could give the Fed reason to raise interest rates, now at 5.25 percent, for the 18th straight time since June 2004 when it meets again in August.

A steeper-than-expected 0.5 percent rise in the June producer price index seemed to support that case, though the core PPI, which strips out energy and food prices, rose by a more modest 0.2 percent, in line with forecasts.

Even so, rate futures ticked lower after the PPI report, raising the implied chance of another Fed rate hike in August to around 70 percent, up from 57 percent late on Monday.

Late afternoon in New York, the euro was down 0.1 percent on the day against the dollar at $1.2505 , after touching $1.2473, its lowest since April 27.

The dollar was up 0.33 percent against the Swiss franc at 1.2522 after hitting a three-month high at 1.2557 earlier. Against the yen, it was up 0.15 percent on the day at 117.35 yen, above the previous day's three-month peak.
Sterling rose 0.43 percent to $1.8265 after data showed a large rise in UK consumer prices, suggesting the Bank of England may lift interest rates this year.

BERNANKE ON DECK
Traders said the dollar's advance on Tuesday was partly technical in nature, triggered by automatic dollar buy orders, and noted the market initially appeared to brush off the data.

Indeed, the greenback's advance ran out of steam by late afternoon as the market turned its attention to CPI and Bernanke.

The Fed chief is expected to stick closely to the tone of the statement released after the Fed's last meeting when the central bank said it expected slower growth to help moderate price pressures.

"If he mentions the word 'pause' or hints in any way that rate hikes may soon end, a lot of the dollar strength would get unwound," said Boris Schlossberg, senior currency strategist at Forex Capital Markets in New York.

But Putnam's Upadhyaya said high oil prices, driven by fighting in the Middle East and worries about Iran's nuclear program, may add a hawkish subtext to Bernanke's remarks.

"Since the Fed met in June, oil prices have gone up $3-$4 a barrel. It's very difficult for me to see him downplaying inflation risks after a move like that," he said.

The dollar has been supported since late last week as conflict between Israel and Lebanon-based Hizbollah guerrillas has prompted some U.S.-based players to repatriate cash into dollars from riskier assets such as overseas stocks.

(Additional reporting by David McMahon)
© Reuters 2006. All Rights Reserved.

 

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