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Thursday September 21, 2006 - 21:10:40 GMT
Reuters - www.reuters.com

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FOREX-Dollar drops as Philly Fed turns negative

FOREX-Dollar drops as Philly Fed turns negative
Thu Sep 21, 2006 4:26pm ET145
(Recasts, updates prices)

By Nick Olivari

NEW YORK, Sept 21 (Reuters) - The dollar slid on Thursday, suffering its worst decline against the euro in two months, after a report showed business activity contracting in the U.S. Mid-Atlantic region in September for the first time in over three years.

The dollar had already been under pressure after the Fed kept rates unchanged on Wednesday and indicated inflation risks were moderating.

But the report from the Philadelphia Federal Reserve, whose index of regional business conditions posted the first negative reading since April 2003, bolstered expectations the Federal Reserve will not raise interest rates again in 2006. For more details, click [nN21399258].

Other components within the report, which often serves as a gauge of nationwide factory activity, also suggested softness.

"The FOMC yesterday opened the door to the Fed staying on hold, and the Philly Fed confirmed the Fed's thinking that a soft landing is on the way," said Ron Simpson, managing director of currency analysis at Action Economics in Tampa, Florida, referring to the Fed's policy-setting Federal Open Market Committee. "The Fed is done for the year and maybe a lot longer than that."

The euro was up 0.8 percent at $1.2788, its biggest one-day percentage advance in two months.

The dollar dropped to 116.29 yen , for a 0.9 percent fall on the day, making it the U.S. currency's biggest one-day decline since Sept. 4. It had traded at 116.80 just before the Philly Fed report.

"Generally, the Philly data has the best correlation with industrial production of all the regional indices so needs to be treated seriously," said Alan Ruskin, chief international strategist at RBS Greenwich Capital Markets in Greenwich, Connecticut.

"Good excuse to sell (dollars), and should be interesting to see whether the market can get its teeth into something finally," he added in a note.

The dollar had its biggest daily loss against a basket of major currencies <.DXY> since late July.

FED STANDS PAT

The FOMC voted on Wednesday to keep the benchmark overnight federal funds rate at 5.25 percent, where it has held since June after being increased at 17 consecutive meetings in two years.

There had been little doubt among investors the Fed would leave rates unchanged on Wednesday, but the central bank's post-meeting statement noted the slowing U.S. housing market and struck a less-hawkish tone on inflation than dollar bulls had expected.

While the Fed may not have signaled that any easing in rates was imminent, it also did not suggest more rate rises were needed as inflation was moderating.

Steady U.S. rates will likely encourage overseas investors to sell dollars in search of higher-yielding assets, especially as other central banks such as the European Central Bank, the Bank of England and possibly the Bank of Japan prepare to raise rates further.

With interest rates clearly in focus, sterling rose to its highest level against the euro since June 2005 , while against the dollar it rallied back up above $1.90 for the first time in two weeks as markets geared up for a possible UK interest rate increase in November to 5.00 percent. Cable last changed hands at $1.9027.

© Reuters 2006. All Rights Reserved.

 

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