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Thursday August 24, 2006 - 10:32:13 GMT
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FOREX-Above-forecast Ifo boosts euro, U.S. data eyed

FOREX-Above-forecast Ifo boosts euro, U.S. data eyed
Thu Aug 24, 2006 6:22am ET161

(Updates price, adds quotes, changes byline)

By David Milliken

LONDON, Aug 24 (Reuters) - The euro jumped half a U.S. cent and made strong gains against the yen on Thursday after the key German Ifo business climate index surpassed expectations, leaving the European Central Bank on track for further tightening this year.

The headline August number came in at 105.0 compared to a forecast of 104.8 and July's 105.6, but there had been talk of a much lower number following a weak German ZEW business sentiment survey earlier in the week.

Analysts say the euro is set for further gains if U.S. data later in the day strengthen concerns about a U.S. economic slowdown and boost expectations that the Federal Reserve might leave interest rates on hold next month.

"The fact that (Ifo) came in pretty close to the original expectations was a big relief for the market so that's why we've seen a big reaction in the euro against dollar and crosses," said Mitul Kotecha, head of global FX research at Calyon.

"The outlook in the second half in Germany still looks very upbeat. Though concerns about 2007 remain, they're putting that away for now. But for the ECB it doesn't change much. The ECB is still primed for a move in October."

By 0945 GMT, the euro had risen to a day's high of $1.2839 before trimming gains to $1.2825 , up 0.3 percent on the day. It hit a two-month high of $1.2940 earlier this week.

Against the yen it rose as high as 149.51 , approaching this week's record high of 149.75 yen. It was also up 0.3 percent against sterling at 67.76 pence

U.S. July durable goods data are due at 1230 GMT and new home sales at 1400 GMT, offering new information for assessing how much the U.S. economy is likely to slow.

DOLLAR AND SLOWDOWN

Slippage in Dutch and Belgian business confidence earlier in the week and a slump in Germany's ZEW investor sentiment indicator on Tuesday had led some to fear a bigger fall in the Ifo, and rumours of a drop to 98.0 had circulated just before the numbers were released.

Analysts say the interest rate outlook for the euro zone is intact given stubborn inflationary pressures, offering underlying support for the euro. The European Central Bank is widely expected to tighten credit further after bumping rates up to 3 percent earlier this month.

In contrast, the Fed may have finished its tightening campaign after increasing rates 17 straight times until it paused this month, while the Bank of Japan said the pace of tightening would be gradual after raising rates in July for the first time in six years.

U.S. new home sales data are expected to show more signs of a downturn in the housing sector and durable goods orders for July are expected to show a drop of 0.5 percent from June, reinforcing expectations that the Fed will not need to raise rates more.

"The market is coming to the view that for the time being at least the growth slowdown could be confined to the U.S. so we could see the dollar coming under renewed pressure," said Ian Stannard, senior currency strategist at BNP Paribas.

The euro could strengthen as much as another cent to $1.2940, though the dollar was prone to temporary support if investors' concern about global growth grew and they unwound positions in riskier assets, Stannard added.

Investors are also looking ahead to a speech by Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke on Friday, especially after Chicago Fed president Michael Moskow said on Tuesday that more rate rises may be needed to check inflation. His remarks pushed the dollar up.

© Reuters 2006. All Rights Reserved.

 

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