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Wednesday August 2, 2006 - 10:50:46 GMT
Reuters - www.reuters.com

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FOREX-Euro holds near highs, eyes ECB, US jobs data

FOREX-Euro holds near highs, eyes ECB, US jobs data
Wed Aug 2, 2006 6:32am ET144

(Adds comments, updates prices)

By David Milliken

LONDON, Aug 2 (Reuters) - The euro held near its highest level against the dollar in nearly a month on Wednesday, with investors looking to an expected European Central Bank rate rise later this week but less certain on the outlook for U.S. rates.

Currency markets brushed off euro zone producer prices data and steadied themselves ahead of Thursday's ECB meeting and Friday's U.S. payrolls numbers.

"I think we're in a bearish dollar phase. You've got erratic conditions in the summer period. Any time the dollar blips higher there are plenty of people willing to sell dollars," said Tony Norfield, currency strategist at ABN AMRO.

"When the U.S. rate premium is getting whittled down that puts the dollar in a vulnerable position. If you go along with the view that the Fed will pause, that makes it harder."

Against a basket of currencies, the dollar fell to its lowest level since July 7, at 84.91 <=USD>, but recovered slightly by 1015 GMT to 85.10.

It was up 0.2 percent at $1.2800 per euro , having hit a one-month low of $1.2835 earlier, while it was steady at 114.53 yen .

Against the yen, the euro lost around 0.2 percent to trade at 146.59 yen .

Data on Tuesday showing robust U.S. manufacturing growth and a rise in the U.S. Federal Reserve's favoured inflation gauge to a four-year high failed to dispel mounting expectations that the Fed will hold rates steady at 5.25 percent on Aug. 8.

CONTRASTING RATE EXPECTATIONS

Before the payrolls data, investors are looking to a private sector report on U.S. employment in July, due at 1215 GMT. It is one of the last pieces of data that could influence Fed expectations for this month.

Last month, the ADP National Employment Report came in strong, hardening expectations for an August Fed hike. But it was followed by soft June non-farm payrolls and by a sharp slowdown in U.S. economic growth in the second quarter.

On Tuesday, Fed futures were pricing in around a 40 percent chance of an August rate hike, down from 78 percent after last month's ADP report.

The ADP report is forecast to show private employers added 155,000 new jobs in July, down from 368,000 in June.

In contrast to the Fed, an ECB rate rise to 3.00 percent this Thursday is seen as a near-certainty, with most analysts then forecasting at least a further two more hikes by year-end.

Euro-zone June producer prices rose 5.8 percent year-on-year, down from 6.1 percent in May.

YEN, AUSSIE

The yen got some support from comments by Bank of Japan Policy Board member Atsushi Mizuno, who said it would be a mistake to think there would be no more rate rises this year.

The comments by Mizuno, regarded as one of the more hawkish members of the BOJ policy board, were in line with comments by other BOJ officials over the past week.

The Australian dollar strengthened after the Reserve Bank of Australia raised interest rates as expected, while data showing a hefty rise in retail sales in June stoked expectations for another tightening to 6.25 percent by the year-end.

The Australian currency rallied to a 4-1/2 year high against the New Zealand dollar at NZ$1.2449 , before retreating to NZ$1.2382 -- after the RBA raised its cash rate by 25 basis points to 6 percent.

© Reuters 2006. All Rights Reserved.

 

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