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Wednesday September 20, 2006 - 23:40:19 GMT
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FOREX-Dollar little changed vs euro after Fed decision

FOREX-Dollar little changed vs euro after Fed decision
Wed Sep 20, 2006 4:18pm ET139

(Recasts, updates prices)

By Nick Olivari

NEW YORK, Sept 20 (Reuters) - The dollar was little changed against the euro and Swiss franc and off the day's lows against the yen on Wednesday after the Federal Reserve left interest rates unchanged for the second straight meeting and said inflation risks were moderating.

As widely expected, the central bank's policy-setting Federal Open Market Committee voted to keep its overnight federal funds rate target at 5.25 percent, the level reached in June after 17 straight increases stretching over more than two years.

"I think running into this, the market was looking for more of a warning on inflation, especially about unit labor costs," said Joseph Trevisani, chief market strategist, FX Solutions in Saddle River, New Jersey. "But on the whole it's a very neutral statement.

Late afternoon in New York, the dollar was down 0.2 percent against the yen , at 117.48 yen, while the euro was little changed at $1.2686, having hit a session high of $1.2728 following the FOMC statement.

"Clearly the Fed is done tightening for 2006," said Craig Russell, senior foreign exchange strategist at ODL Securities in Chicago. "From here on in, I would expect a rate cut before I expect another rate hike."

The Fed's decision will give more time to assess whether cooling economic growth will curb price pressures, analysts said.

The dollar was lower on Wednesday ahead of the Fed announcement as investors anticipated the central bank would leave interest rates unchanged and signal no need for more policy tightening for the time being.

Fed fund futures show that the market is pricing in a 6 percent chance that the Fed will raise rates by another quarter percentage point, to 5.50 percent, at its next meeting in October.

The prospect of steady U.S. rates detracts from the greenback's appeal among overseas investors.

With U.S. rates being among the highest within the Group of Seven rich nations, the dollar has benefited from carry trades, where investors have bought higher-yielding assets by selling lower-yielding currencies such as the yen and the Swiss franc.

Financial markets have started to price in the possibility the Fed could ease in the first half of next year.

The yen recovered from its dip the prior day on news of a military coup in Thailand. Investors had sold Asian currencies after the coup, but bought back yen on Wednesday after market reaction to the event appeared relatively modest.

Comments from a European official in Singapore on Tuesday that said markets needed time to digest remarks from some G7 policy-makers calling for a higher yen helped the Japanese currency stage an across-the-board rally.

Meanwhile, U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, who is in China this week, urged Beijing to speed up its economic reforms.

But Paulson said he did not agree with some of the tactics from U.S. lawmakers who have called for sanctions unless China allows its currency to rise more quickly to help curb global imbalances.

The pound was last up 0.3 percent against the dollar at $1.8868. Dollar/Swiss was little changed at 1.2519 Swiss francs.

The New Zealand dollar was the best performing currency against the dollar on the day, up 0.4 percent, at $0.6608.

(Additional reporting by David McMahon and Amanda Cooper)

© Reuters 2006. All Rights Reserved.


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