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Thursday October 19, 2006 - 23:04:30 GMT
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FOREX-Dollar slumps on surprise fall in Philly Fed survey

FOREX-Dollar slumps on surprise fall in Philly Fed survey
Thu Oct 19, 2006 5:19pm ET253

(Repeats to additional subscribers) (Recasts, updates prices, comment)

By Dena Aubin

NEW YORK, Oct 19 (Reuters) - The dollar slumped on Thursday after a survey showed a surprise fall in business activity in the U.S. Mid-Atlantic region in October, renewing worries about the strength of the U.S. economy.

Failure of the dollar to break through key technical levels earlier in the week also prompted profit-taking by investors who had bought dollars earlier this month.

The dollar lost ground after the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia said its index of business conditions fell to -0.7, surprising analysts who had expected a rise to 7.0.

"There were some rumors it actually could be a very strong number and in the event, it came out very weak," said Richard Franulovich, currency strategist with Westpac Bank in New York. "That's just accentuated the dollar-selling."

The euro climbed 0.7 percent to $1.2625, its biggest daily gain in three months. The dollar fell 0.6 percent to 118.13 yen .

The dollar was down 1 percent against the Swiss franc at 1.2571 francs , its biggest daily fall against the Swiss currency in at least three months.

The dollar also tumbled against the Norwegian crown after Saudi Arabia said it "absolutely supports" a cut in OPEC production, sparking a rally in oil prices. For details, see [ID:nL19189097].

The dollar was down 1.2 percent at 6.6867 crowns . Norway is the world's third-biggest exporter of oil.

The Conference Board's index of leading indicators also weighed on the dollar, rising 0.1 percent in September, versus expectations for a 0.3 percent gain.

"The leading indicators remain weak, having declined in four of the past 6 months," said Steven Wood, chief economist at Insight Economics, LLC in Danville, California. "These data -- both in September and the medium-term trend -- suggest that economic growth in the year ahead should be much weaker than it has been in the past year."

The dollar rose to multi-month highs against major currencies earlier this month after a string of robust economic data reduced speculation that the Federal Reserve may cut interest rates in coming months to shore up the economy.

But the rally stalled this week after the euro failed to sustain a break below the closely watched $1.25 level. At the same time, the dollar has been rebuffed in several attempts to challenge the 120 yen mark, another key resistance level.

"After failing to get below 1.25, the path of least resistance for the euro is up," said a dealer with a U.S. bank.

Frustrating investors who may have been hoping major currencies had left summer ranges behind, implied volatility of 1-month euro/dollar options dropped to the lowest since the euro was launched in January 1999.

Implied volatility reflects how much the market expects an asset price to move in a given time period. It usually moves higher when trading ranges are broken and vice versa.

With no U.S. economic data due on Friday, investors will shift focus to the Fed's two-day meeting next week. The central bank is expected to keep rates on hold at 5.25 percent, standing pat for the third straight meeting since halting a two-year monetary tightening campaign in June. (Additional reporting by David McMahon, Steven C. Johnson and Nick Olivari)

© Reuters 2006. All Rights Reserved.


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