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Monday August 14, 2006 - 21:21:56 GMT
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FOREX-Dollar flat against euro ahead of US inflation data

FOREX-Dollar flat against euro ahead of US inflation data
Mon Aug 14, 2006 4:23pm ET254

(Recasts, updates prices)

By Nick Olivari

NEW YORK, Aug 14 (Reuters) - The dollar pared losses and was little changed against the euro in thin trading on Monday as traders speculated that U.S. inflation data this week could push the Federal Reserve into again lifting interest rates.

The dollar had earlier eased against the euro after data showed the 12-nation euro zone economy grew at its fastest rate in six years, reinforcing the view that the European Central Bank could raise rates again. For details, see [ID:nL14206433].

The dollar gained against the yen, but thin summer trade was confined to narrow ranges as investors looked ahead to Tuesday's U.S. producer price index and Wednesday's U.S. consumer price index data for July.

"It's very listless trading without the aspect of data in the U.S. even though euro zone data was quite favorable" to the euro, said John McCarthy, director of foreign exchange trading at ING Capital Markets in New York. "U.S. inflation data will be the first thing we look at."

The euro was little changed at $1.2719 in late afternoon New York trade, while the dollar was up 0.3 percent at 116.67 yen . The pound was down 0.1 percent at $1.8874 .

The euro was up around 0.3 percent at 148.43 yen and touched a peak of 148.57 yen, according to Reuters data, just short of a record high hit last week.

Any signs of an acceleration of inflation could lead the Fed to raise interest rates again, after pausing in a two-year-long tightening campaign this month, giving the currency a short-term boost.

"Coming on the back of the better-than-expected retail sales on Friday, more evidence of a rise in inflation could create the notion that the Fed would have to reassess its pause policy," said Boris Schlossberg, senior currency strategist at Forex Capital Markets.

Last week, the dollar posted its biggest weekly gain in almost a month against a basket of major currencies <.DXY> after a surprisingly strong retail sales report on Friday led some traders to question the view that the economy is slowing.

Some analysts said the euro may struggle to extend its gains, since speculators have already ramped up their bets in favor of the euro against the dollar. The euro has gained 7.4 percent against the dollar this year, while sterling has surged 9.7 percent against the dollar.

ING's McCarthy said the euro/dollar will likely trade between $1.2650 and $1.2850 between now and the Labor Day weekend at the beginning of September which for many marks the end of the U.S. summer vacation season.

Speculators in International Monetary Market currency futures raised their bets on both a stronger euro and sterling to record levels in the week to Aug. 8, data showed on Friday.

"This may suggest further downside risks to EUR/USD and cable if positions were pared down due to the Fed," Morgan Stanley currency strategist Stephen Jen wrote to clients in a note.

The Fed left interest rates on hold at 5.25 percent last week after raising them 17 straight times, though it kept the door open for more credit tightening if price pressures persist.

Fed fund futures show that the market is pricing in a 48 percent chance that the Fed will raise rates by another quarter percentage point to 5.50 percent at its next meeting in September.

© Reuters 2006. All Rights Reserved


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