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Wednesday August 30, 2006 - 21:17:15 GMT
Reuters - www.reuters.com

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FOREX-Dollar steady vs euro before ECB meeting

NEW YORK, Aug 30 (Reuters) - The dollar was flat against the euro and slightly higher against the yen on Wednesday, with expectations for relative differences in interest rates between the United States, the euro zone and Japan remaining in the driver's seat.

There was little reaction to a revision of second-quarter U.S. gross domestic product growth and underlying inflation, which were largely in line with expectations, leaving the market focused on a policy meeting of the European Central Bank on Thursday.

"We expect the ECB to remain on hold but look to the press conference for (ECB President Jean-Claude) Trichet to reintroduce the language of 'vigilance' and cue up for a rate hike at the next decision on Oct. 5," Morgan Stanley currency analysts said in a research note.

The forwards market is almost fully pricing in expectations for euro zone interest rates to rise to 3.25 percent from 3.00 percent in October, assuming the ECB stands pat on Thursday. For more click on [ID:nL29915076]

By late afternoon, the euro was nearly unchanged against the dollar at $1.2830 compared with late Tuesday.

The euro also hit a fresh record high against the yen at around 150.43 , up 0.6 percent.

Soft Japanese inflation data last Friday have diminished expectations of more interest rate increases by the Bank of Japan this year and have continued to damage sentiment on the yen, particularly against the euro.

The dollar rose 0.4 percent to 117.10 yen and was steady against the Swiss franc at 1.2278 francs .

STILL MORE U.S. DATA

So far this week, data and events have had little effect on the market's view that the Federal Reserve sees no urgent need to raise U.S. interest rates again after pausing a more than two-year tightening campaign earlier this month.

But in terms of U.S. economic indicators, there is still much more to come, which is likely why the dollar did not react much to the GDP data.

The U.S. economy grew at an annual pace of 2.9 percent in the second quarter, faster than the 2.5 percent initially reported, but only slightly below what analysts were expecting. For details, see [ID:nN30186765]

"It does suggest that the economy is slowing down from the first quarter. But today is not really a big day. We have bigger things to look forward to later in the week," said Richard Franulovich, senior currency strategist at Westpac Banking Corp. in New York.

Still to come are the July core personal consumption expenditure (PCE) price index -- an inflation gauge favored by the Federal Reserve -- the August Chicago purchasing managers' index and the August payrolls report.

The December eurodollar 3-month future contract currently reflects an implied U.S. yield of 5.40 percent but weaker-than-expected U.S. data, particularly on the payrolls report, could reduce that yield and drag the dollar down.

Sterling inched up by 0.3 percent to $1.9045 . But the biggest mover on the day was the New Zealand dollar, which rose 1 percent to a fresh 5-1/2-month high of $0.6505

Reduced expectations that New Zealand's central bank will cut interest rates next year have helped to boost one of the highest-yielding major currencies. But dealers warned that the kiwi may be in store for a correction soon.

"From here, the New Zealand dollar goes a little higher but it will be difficult to sustain a move over $0.66," said a dealer with an Australian bank.

© Reuters 2006. All Rights Reserved.

 

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