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Wednesday August 23, 2006 - 10:37:30 GMT
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FOREX-Euro pulls back from ZEW lows, Belgian, US data eyed

FOREX-Euro pulls back from ZEW lows, Belgian, US data eyed
Wed Aug 23, 2006 5:58am ET160

(Updates price, adds quotes, changes byline)

By Natsuko Waki

LONDON, Aug 23 (Reuters) - The euro staged a modest recovery against the dollar on Wednesday after slipping in the previous session when the closely-watched German ZEW business sentiment index hit its lowest level in five years.

The dollar eroded gains made after hawkish comments from Chicago Federal Reserve President Michael Moskow, who said more rate rises may be needed to keep prices in check.

Investors are awaiting U.S. housing market data due later as they try to assess whether U.S. rates will stay on hold given signs the world's biggest economy is slowing.

In Europe, Belgium's business confidence indicator, due at 1300 GMT, will be under close watch due to its tendency to presage Germany's Ifo indicator on Thursday, one of the euro zone's top sentiment indicators.

"The Belgian indicator is of interest after the weak ZEW and ahead of the Ifo. But the ZEW didn't alter the near-term monetary policy outlook and people still think the rates will go up to 3.5 percent by year-end," said Stuart Ritson, currency strategist at Rabobank.

"The question is whether the rates would peak at 3.5 percent next year and whether the euro zone economy can remain resilient in the face of a U.S. slowdown."

At 0950 GMT, the euro was up 0.15 percent at $1.2820 , and the dollar was down 0.2 percent at 116.25 yen . The euro was down slightly at 149.05 yen , off its record high of 149.75 set on Monday.

Reflecting the underlying strength of the single currency, the European Central Bank's euro trade-weighted index stayed near its highest level since May 2005.


Analysts say the market remained confident the ECB would tighten credit further after bumping rates up to 3 percent earlier this month.

Belgium's business confidence indicator is forecast to slip to 5.0 from 5.4 in July, off June's historic high of 10.1.

Belgium's economy is heavily dependent on the export of intermediate goods to France, Germany and the Netherlands, so the health of its economy can act as an early warning system for the rest of the euro zone.

"Given stretched euro long positions and having deteriorated sentiment on euro area economic outlooks reinforced by the weak ZEW survey, risks surrounding today's release may be skewed towards slightly euro downside," JP Morgan said in a note to clients.

Markets got a shock from the ZEW August expectations indicator, which fell for a seventh straight month. But analysts give a greater weight to the Ifo number due Thursday, which is based on businesses' responses rather than financial institutions'.

In an interview with Reuters on Tuesday, ECB Governing Council member Axel Weber said the ZEW indicator was just one economic measure among many. He said the central bank would keep lifting rates as long as euro zone growth prospects and price risks continued to rise.


The Fed is widely expected to keep rates on hold at its next policy meeting in September. After bumping up rates 17 straight times, the Fed kept the funds rate steady at 5.25 percent earlier this month, saying slower U.S. growth would help moderate price pressures.

Signs that the U.S. housing sector, the main engine of recent growth, is cooling rapidly have led some economists to predict the Fed could cut rates in the second half of 2007.

The U.S. weekly mortgage market index comes out at 1100 GMT, and existing home sales figures are due for 1400 GMT. They are forecast to slip down to an annualised 6.55 million units in July from 6.62 million units in June.

© Reuters 2006. All Rights Reserved


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