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Friday August 11, 2006 - 10:16:18 GMT
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FOREX-Soft Japan GDP pressures yen, US sales data due

FOREX-Soft Japan GDP pressures yen, US sales data due
Fri Aug 11, 2006 4:56am ET169

(changes dateline, byline, adds quotes, comments)

By Veronica Brown

LONDON, Aug 11 (Reuters) - The yen slipped against the dollar and euro on Friday as softer than expected Japanese growth data triggered position adjustment in the currency.

The euro was steady against the dollar, with the focus turning to U.S. retail sales data, due at 1230 GMT, which will be scanned for any signs of slowing in the world's biggest economy. The single currency felt little impact, however, from surprisingly strong French growth data.

Japanese gross domestic product expanded at a 0.8 percent annualised pace in the April-June quarter, softer than market forecasts for a 1.8 percent clip and reinforcing expectations the Bank of Japan will lift interest rates only gradually.

Despite the unexpectedly sharp slowdown, analysts said firming consumer spending and solid business investment would underpin growth and likely spur a rebound in the current quarter.

"The breakdown of the second quarter was actually quite good -- it still shows that domestic demand conditions in Japan are very strong," BOTM-UFJ currency economist Derek Halpenny said.

The Bank of Japan held rates steady at 0.25 percent as widely expected and BOJ Governor Toshihiko Fukui said he was neither ruling out nor implying another rise in borrowing costs by the end of the year.

Given the dollar's own vulnerabilities, the Japanese growth data by itself is unlikely to give the U.S. currency a sustained lift against the yen, said Daisuke Uno, market strategist for Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp in Tokyo.

"Since the Fed stopped raising interest rates and the U.S. economy is slowing down, the basic tone is one of dollar-selling," he said. "The initial reaction was to sell yen but I don't think it will continue that long."

The dollar was up 0.48 percent at 115.76 yen by 0820 GMT, while the euro rose 0.43 percent to 148.02 yen , having hit a record peak of 148.60 yen on Thursday, according to Reuters data.

Against the dollar, the single currency was steady at $1.2783 , off a two-month high of $1.2913 struck the previous session.

RETAIL SALES EYED

Economists in a Reuters survey expect a median 0.8 percent rise in July U.S. retail sales compared with a 0.1 percent fall in June. Excluding automobiles, sales are seen up 0.5 percent compared to a 0.3 percent rise the prior month.

UBS chief currency strategist Mansoor Mohi-uddin said the euro could benefit from a softer than expected outcome.

"We think any renewed signs of the U.S. economy slowing, plus the focus on global imbalances, will cause the euro to trade towards $1.30 over the next three months and ultimately to $1.35 over the next 12 months," he said in a research note.

BOTM-UFJ's Halpenny said that after the Federal Reserve's decision to pause its 2-year monetary policy tightening campaign this week, the market had given the central bank the benefit of the doubt on its view that growth was moderating.

"Going forward, if we were to get a series of stronger than expected (data) readings, the market would react to that, we would see some renewed dollar buying."

Sterling held steady against the dollar and the euro, having fallen the previous day after Britain said police foiled a plot to blow up trans-Atlantic flights.

The pound was at $1.8964 , up 0.16 percent on the day and up 0.2 percent against the euro at 67.41 pence.

News of the bomb plot took the recent shine off sterling, which hit a two-year high on a trade-weighted basis earlier this week after a surprise Bank of England rate hike on Aug. 3.

But sterling selling proved short-lived as the focus shifted back to fundamentals, with the pound still drawing support on yield differentials.

© Reuters 2006. All Rights Reserved.

 

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