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Thursday October 5, 2006 - 20:59:02 GMT
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FOREX-Dollar firms as markets brace for US jobs data

FOREX-Dollar firms as markets brace for US jobs data
Thu Oct 5, 2006 4:42pm ET169

(Updates prices, adds comment, changes byline)

By Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss

NEW YORK, Oct 5 (Reuters) - The dollar firmed against the euro on Thursday, helped by comments from the European Central Bank president, who gave no clear indication of further euro zone tightening beyond the rate increase he signaled this year.

Markets are now bracing for Friday's all-important U.S. non-farm payrolls, which could provide hints as to where interest rates are headed after the Federal Reserve held them steady at its last two meetings.

ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet's comments, after the bank raised its key lending rate to 3.25 percent, underlined the certainty about the euro zone's rate outlook next year. He did say, however, the ECB will monitor inflation dangers very closely, a signal, analysts said, the bank will most likely hike rates in December.

Some analysts interpreted Trichet's later remarks as suggesting that markets should expect further rate rises in 2007, while others said Trichet's comments gave no such clues.

"While today's (ECB) statement may not have been everything euro bulls could have hoped for, it did reinforce Trichet's commitment to continued removal of monetary accommodation amidst upside risks to price stability," said Michael Woolfolk, senior currency strategist at Bank of New York.

Trichet steered away from using the word "vigilance" with regard to the ECB's stance on inflation, which the central bank chief has often used in the past to telegraph near-term rate rises.

Late afternoon in New York, the euro fell 0.2 percent to $1.2694.

The dollar held its gains as Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank President Charles Plosser renewed expectations of further increases in U.S. interest rates, which he said may not be high enough to stem inflationary pressures.

"To the extent that Plosser is re-arguing the case for further tightening, the dollar should get a little bit more juice out of this. It will just take time to get over the lethargy," said Brian Dolan, director of FX research at in Bedminster, New York.

The dollar was down 0.1 percent at 117.64 yen . The euro earlier slipped to session lows against the yen after Trichet said he stood by his recent comments at a Group of Seven meeting in Singapore. In that G7 meeting, he said the value of the yen should reflect Japan's recovery from deflation.

The euro was down 0.3 percent at 149.33 yen , well below a record peak of 150.73 in late August.

With the ECB meeting out of the way, the market's attention focused on Friday's U.S. non-farm payrolls report. The data are expected to show 125,000 jobs were created in September, although a weaker reading could intensify speculation a slowing U.S. economy may lead the Fed to start cutting interest rates in coming months.

"Now more than the ever the market is riding on the event (non-farm payrolls) in hopes that it will bring us a much more exciting fourth quarter. Volatility in the currency market has dropped so low over the past three months that most traders are begging for some excitement," said Kathy Lien, chief fundamental analyst at Forex Capital Markets in New York.

The pound was under pressure after the Bank of England left rates steady at 4.75 percent as expected, disappointing some sterling bulls who were betting on the outside chance of a rate rise.

Sterling was down 0.4 percent at $1.8788 . The dollar rose 0.2 percent against the Swiss franc to 1.2512 francs .

© Reuters 2006. All Rights Reserved.


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