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Monday September 25, 2006 - 20:58:25 GMT
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FOREX-Dollar holds gains vs euro after housing data

FOREX-Dollar holds gains vs euro after housing data
Mon Sep 25, 2006 4:54pm ET145

(Updates prices, adds comment)

By David McMahon

NEW YORK, Sept 25 (Reuters) - The dollar gained against the euro on Monday, buoyed by unexpectedly resilient U.S. home sales data, but moved little against most currencies as investors braced for a big week of U.S. economic data.

The dollar leapt to a session high against the euro after data showing a smaller-than-expected decline in existing U.S. home sales for August. Gains were limited, though, with consumer confidence and inflation data still to come later in the week.

"Sentiment on the dollar right now is definitely more bullish than bearish," said Kathy Lien, strategist at Forex Capital Markets in New York.

"Oil dipping under $60 a barrel means we could see stronger readings in the consumer confidence data."

Major currencies have been trapped in narrow ranges for the past couple of months now as investors look for more clues on monetary policy after the Federal Reserve halted a two-year-long tightening policy in August.

Softer-than-expected U.S. data this week would reinforce expectations the Federal Reserve's tightening cycle is over, and that the next move by the central bank could be a cut.

The euro was down 0.2 percent at $1.2750 in late New York trade, and earlier dipped as low as $1.2731 on electronic trading system EBS after the housing report. The euro also fell 0.3 percent to 148.50 yen , more than two yen off its record peak above 150 set in August.

The existing home sales report showed sales fell 0.5 percent in August, and the median home price fell for the first time since 1995. For more details, see [nN25267939].

The dollar was barely moved on the day against the yen at 116.45 yen , while against the Swiss franc it was up around 0.2 percent on the day at 1.2385 francs.

Consumer confidence data from the Conference Board is due on Tuesday, while later in the week investors will take a close look at the Personal Consumption Expenditure index, the Fed's favorite measure of inflation.

Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher said in Mexico on Monday that inflation remains elevated and the Fed must remain vigilant. The Fed left interest rates on hold last week for the second meeting in a row at 5.25 percent, and reiterated that while inflation risks remain, they should abate as economic growth slows.

Investors are also awaiting Tuesday's closely watched German IFO business climate survey for September following a rise in the business confidence indicator in Belgium. The headline figure is expected to come in at 104.4, down from 105 in the previous month and the third straight monthly decline.

Even so, the index would not be far off the 15-year highs posted in June, and signs of a resilient euro-zone economy are expected to lead the European Central Bank to raise interest rates again in October to keep a lid on inflation.

The dollar's interest rate advantage over the euro has been narrowing, with 2-year U.S. Treasury bonds yielding 117 basis points more than euro-zone debt, down from almost 180 basis points just a few months ago.

Despite its declining rate advantage, the dollar has held up well and is set to end the third quarter virtually flat against a basket of six major currencies. Some banks are still betting on a turnaround.

"We continue to see near-term risks skewed to the downside for the USD and anticipate a break of key USD support levels in the near-term, targeting EUR/USD at 1.30 in 1-month," strategists at UBS wrote in a note to clients.

(Additional reporting by Nick Olivari) (Reporting by David McMahon; editing by Chizu Nomiyama; Reuters Messaging: [email protected], +1 646 223 6233))

© Reuters 2006. All Rights Reserved.


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