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Thursday October 12, 2006 - 20:53:23 GMT
Reuters - www.reuters.com

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FOREX-Dollar softens on trade gap, growth outlook strong

FOREX-Dollar softens on trade gap, growth outlook strong
Thu Oct 12, 2006 4:39pm ET143

(Updates prices, adds comment)

By Steven C. Johnson

NEW YORK, Oct 12 (Reuters) - A report showing an unexpected rise in the U.S. trade deficit in August nudged the dollar off multi-month peaks against the euro and yen on Thursday, though a sunnier U.S. economic outlook capped the decline.

Trading was choppy with dealers looking for the dollar to break through key psychological levels squaring off against others who think the greenback's gains have gone far enough.

A Federal Reserve Beige Book survey released on Thursday painted a mixed picture of regional U.S. economic growth in September, traders said, doing little to tip the balance in either direction.

"The initial reaction has been to fade the dollar slippage on the back of the trade headlines," said Shaun Osborne, chief currency strategist with TD Securities in Toronto.

In late afternoon trading, the euro was up 0.3 percent from late Wednesday to $1.2551, though it remains close to 2-1/2-month lows at $1.2500 hit on Wednesday, according to Reuters data. Dealers said automatic sell euros orders below $1.2500 would likely accelerate a move lower.

The dollar was 0.3 percent lower at 119.38 yen , off a 10-month high at 119.83 hit Wednesday.

The move lower reversed seven straight sessions of gains for the dollar index <.DXY>, which measures the greenback against a basket of currencies. That was its strongest run in 18 months.

The Australian dollar was the biggest gainer on Thursday, rising more than 1 percent at $0.7510 following domestic jobs data that beat forecasts and boosted expectations for the Australian central bank to raise interest rates later this year.

MORE ROOM TO RALLY

The greenback initially slipped after data showed the U.S. trade gap in August widened to a record $69.86 billion from a revised $68 billion a month earlier, and forex traders said that prompted some profit-taking.

Still, strategists said dollar-positive sentiment remains strong, especially after last week's sharp upward revisions to U.S. jobs data and signs that Fed policymakers see containing inflation as a top priority.

Both have dimmed expectations of a near-term Fed rate cut and have suggested the U.S. economy is in better shape than initially forecast, helping the dollar to rally.

"The market got ahead of itself by calling for a cut, and I don't think there's anyone who doubts (the dollar will) go through 120 yen and $1.25, if not on Friday, then in the next few trading sessions," said Joe Francomano, vice president of foreign exchange at Erste Bank in New York.

A solid reading in U.S. retail sales, due for release on Friday, could reinforce the view that the economy remains in good shape and spark more dollar buying, strategists said.

Brian Garvey, senior strategist at State Street Global Markets in Boston, also noted that U.S. equity inflows have boosted the greenback while investors have stopped paying as much attention to structural concerns.

"Trade imbalances are really off people's radar, and if you look at the strategy of buying surplus currencies and selling deficit ones, you find that's been among the worst-performing strategies of the last quarter," he said. (Additional reporting by Kevin Plumberg)

© Reuters 2006. All Rights Reserved.

 

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