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Thursday August 3, 2006 - 21:12:45 GMT
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FOREX-Dollar down vs euro on ECB rate hike, hint of more

FOREX-Dollar down vs euro on ECB rate hike, hint of more
Thu Aug 3, 2006 4:52pm ET "
(Updates prices)
By Amanda Cooper

NEW YORK, Aug 3 (Reuters) - The euro rallied on Thursday after the European Central Bank lifted interest rates and hinted it may tighten monetary policy further if euro zone inflation and growth continue to meet the bank's expectations.

Sterling posted even bigger gains across the board after a surprise rate hike by the Bank of England, while the dollar fared better against the yen and Swiss franc as investors adjusted positions ahead of Friday's key U.S. jobs report.

The dollar staged a brief rebound against the euro earlier in the day but by late afternoon the move had fizzled out.

"What we are now seeing is the market feeling more comfortable with a level of around $1.28 (in the euro) ahead of the payrolls number," said Matthew Strauss, senior currency strategist for RBC Capital Markets in Toronto.

"Tomorrow's payrolls is by far the most important data and given that the market has become more concerned about the economic growth prospects of the U.S., that number is even more important than usual," he said.

Economists polled by Reuters expect a rise of 142,000 in the July nonfarm payrolls report, up from 121,000 in June. But some analysts said it could take a rise of as much as 150,000 just to stem further dollar selling.

The euro was last up nearly 0.2 percent at $1.2804, off an earlier high of $1.2833 but still near one-month peaks, and versus the yen , it was up nearly 0.4 percent at 147.19 yen

The euro zone currency had been on a firm footing for most of the day since ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet said policy remained accommodative and further tightening may be needed.

The ECB raised rates by a quarter percentage point to 3 percent, but Trichet's comments forced investors to price in at least two more hikes this year.

The rate hike, the fourth since December, was widely expected as inflation has held above the ECB's 2.0 percent limit and growth was within the bank's long-term trend rate.

The Bank of England delivered a surprise quarter-point increase that took interest rates in Britain to 4.75 percent.

The bank said it was time to reverse last August's quarter-point rate cut as the economy had strengthened and inflation was running slightly above its target.

Sterling climbed to 11-week highs against the dollar at $1.8914 and 2-1/2-month highs against the euro but by late in the day it had pared those gains to trade up 0.5 percent at $1.8879 while the euro was off 0.4 percent at 67.81 pence.

The dollar was up 0.2 percent against the yen at 114.93 yen .
With so much attention on central bank policy events, the dollar barely reacted to a July service sector business gauge that missed forecasts. For details see [ID:nWEN3275].

Anticipation ahead of Friday's payrolls dominated afternoon trade in New York. Fed fund futures reflected a 46 percent chance the Fed will raise rates another quarter point to 5.50 percent next week, up from 38 percent on Wednesday.

© Reuters 2006. All Rights Reserved.


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