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Thursday November 9, 2006 - 11:53:11 GMT
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FOREX-Euro hits record high vs yen, dlr awaits US trade

FOREX-Euro hits record high vs yen, dlr awaits US trade
Thu Nov 9, 2006 6:47am ET28

(changes byline, adds quotes, updates prices)

By Toni Vorobyova

LONDON, Nov 9 (Reuters) - The euro hit a record high against the yen on Thursday, boosted by a breach of technical levels as euro zone interest rates were seen rising at a faster pace than those of Japan, keeping the yield differential intact.

The euro also neared six-week highs against the dollar as investors left U.S. election results firmly behind them to focus on U.S. trade data later in the day.

European Central Bank Executive Board member Lorenzo Bini Smaghi said Europe's economic recovery is proceeding at a faster pace than foreseen and that current interest rates of 3.25 percent might be inadequate. His comments were seen to confirm expectations for a hike in December, and perhaps again in 2007.

European investors were also keeping an eye on sterling as the Bank of England is widely expected to raise borrowing costs to 5.00 percent later in the session, and could shed some light on the likelihood of another move next February.

"The market is almost fully priced for the February (BoE) meeting, which I suspect is slightly overdone," said Geoff Kendrick, currency strategist at Westpac.

"The U.S. deficit is likely to be a little better than expected. Oil prices fell again in the month and with the U.S. economy slowing a little bit, that reduces demand for imports as well ... So cable (sterling/dollar) a little lower this afternoon would be our favourite trade," he added.

By 1120 GMT, sterling was 0.1 percent higher on the day at $1.9071 , whilst the euro rose 0.20 percent to $1.2781 , off the six-week peak of $1.2820 struck on Tuesday.

The euro hit a record high of 151.02 yen according to Reuters data , with buy orders triggered around the 150.80 level. In contrast to the euro zone, expectations of rate hikes in Japan have been scaled back a little of late, amidst mixed economic data.

"Going forward the market is possibly looking to upcoming data from Japan and we think there is a good chance that we get economic contraction in the third quarter. That just plays into the market's appetite of selling the yen," said Derek Halpenny, currency economist at BTM-UFJ.

The U.S. trade figures at 1330 GMT are expected to show the deficit narrowed to $66.0 billion in September from the record $69.9 billion the previous month.

In contrast to Kendrick's view, some analysts say the risks are for a bigger deficit, after strong export numbers from U.S. trading partners like Japan and China.


Weekly U.S. jobless figures are also expected to figure highly on radar screens after the claims number jumped sharply last week, raising tentative concerns that weakness in the housing sector may have spilled over into the labour market.

Employment numbers also played a key part in the movement of other currencies on Thursday, with investors using them to gauge the likely future path of interest rates.

The Australian dollar fell to a 1-1/2 week low of US$0.7653 after data showing a steep drop in employment in October stirred expectations that the central bank may be done raising rates after an increase to 6.25 percent on Wednesday.

New Zealand's currency also suffered on the back of soft employment data, falling to one-week lows of US$0.6634 . New Zealand unexpectedly shed 9,000 jobs in the third quarter.

In Sweden, in contrast, the unemployment rate fell to 4.0 percent, whilst core underlying UND1X inflation was slightly stronger on the month than expected in October.

The data was seen to confirm expectations for continued policy tightening from the Riksbank, pushing the Swedish crown to 1-1/2 year highs of 9.1175 per euro .

© Reuters 2006. All Rights Reserved.


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