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Thursday September 14, 2006 - 21:28:54 GMT
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FOREX-Dollar dips as traders await inflation data, G7

FOREX-Dollar dips as traders await inflation data, G7
Thu Sep 14, 2006 4:11pm ET164

(Updates prices)

By Amanda Cooper

NEW YORK, Sept 14 (Reuters) - The dollar fell against the euro on Thursday for the second day in a row as the European Central Bank chief warned on inflation, but trading was muted ahead of this weekend's international meetings.

A surprising rise in U.S. retail sales in August helped the dollar erase some of its losses, but the currency was lower on the day almost across the board.

The euro was confined to a narrow range as traders maintained their current positions ahead of key U.S. inflation data on Friday and, more importantly, this weekend's meeting of finance ministers and central bankers from the Group of Seven nations.

One currency strategist cited two reasons for reluctance to take big positions ahead of the G7 gathering.

"You always have soundbite risk," said Rebecca Patterson at JPMorgan in New York, as well as "the memory of the April communique and the bloodbath the dollar took after that communique."

The dollar lost nearly 3.5 percent against the yen in April, when the G7 issued a statement calling for an appreciation in Asian currencies to help curb global imbalances, which many took as a call for a weaker dollar.

By late afternoon in New York, the euro was up 0.2 percent at $1.2727 having failed to break $1.2750 earlier, a level that has served as key euro resistance in recent sessions. The euro was still close to one-week highs.

Against the yen, the dollar was down almost 0.1 percent at 117.50 yen and the euro was up 0.2 percent at 149.53 yen.

The euro has traded in a tight $1.2750-$1.2665 band against the dollar over the last several trading sessions and has been trapped in a broader range of $1.2980-$1.2450 since April.

"Everybody I talk to is getting crushed in this market. It has really been hard to figure this market out during the past three months or so," said a senior dealer with a U.S. asset management firm.

Overnight, the euro was boosted when European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet said officials remained on high alert for signs of rising inflation.

Markets widely expect the ECB to raise interest rates, now at 3 percent, at its next policy meeting in October.

A 0.2 percent gain in U.S. retail sales in August helped hold euro strength in check. Wall Street had expected sales to fall 0.1 percent.

The Federal Reserve held rates steady at 5.25 percent last month after 17 straight increases over two years and has said slowing growth will cool price pressures in the months ahead.

Looming larger for the currency market was Friday's U.S. consumer price index, a key inflation gauge, and potentially the next pointer for the course of U.S. monetary policy.

Wall Street expects the core reading, which excludes food and energy costs, to have risen 0.2 percent last month, though some say a more worrisome 0.3 percent gain is possible.

"That would catch the market totally off guard here," said Richard Franulovich, strategist at Westpac Banking Corp. in New York, partly because it would likely spark speculation that the Fed may have to hike rates again to contain rising prices.

The Canadian dollar proved remarkably resilient to a sharp fall in the price of natural gas <0#NG:>, a major export, which fell to its lowest in about two years, but the loonie was last up 0.1 percent at C$1.1175.

The New Zealand dollar was the best performer of the day, up more than 1 percent at $0.6607 after the central bank kept interest rates steady at 7.25 percent but said rising price pressures meant a future hike could not be ruled out.

Sterling gained 0.5 percent to reach $1.8863 , boosted by strong British retail sales and housing data. The euro was off 0.2 percent at 0.6746 pence in late U.S. trade.

(Additional reporting by Steven C. Johnson)

© Reuters 2006. All Rights Reserved.


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