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Friday November 24, 2006 - 11:44:06 GMT
Reuters - www.reuters.com

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Euro soars above $1.31 to 19-mth high as dlr slides

Euro soars above $1.31 to 19-mth high as dlr slides
Fri Nov 24, 2006 6:37am ET26

LONDON, Nov 24 (Reuters) - The euro shot above $1.31 on Friday for the first time since April 2005, extending sharp gains made this week as a confluence of euro-positive factors finally triggered a break out of recent ranges.

Upbeat German economic data and policymakers' comments have reinforced expectations of higher euro zone interest rates going into next year, while the issue of central bank reserve diversification into euros has come back to the fore. Friday's move higher was heightened by thin trading conditions due to Thursday's U.S. holiday, which helped trigger stop-loss buy orders above the psychological $1.30 level.

The dollar slid across the board, hitting its lowest level against sterling in almost two years.

Ian Gunner, head of foreign exchange research at Mellon Bank, said: "For the time being the news flow is favouring the euro. If we close above $1.30 today the key will be if we reject all of this as a Thanksgiving phenomenon or not.

"This thin market environment is one where you can end up with very sharp moves over a short period of time ... if you plot the chart, it's interesting to see that two years ago we had a big dollar weakness story towards the end of the year," CIBC World Markets European economist Audrey Childe Freeman said.

By 1055 GMT, the euro had risen over 1 percent on the day to as high as $1.3109 , its strongest since April 2005 and just over 5 cents away from a record high set in late 2004.

Sterling was up 0.8 percent at $1.9325 , having hit a near two-year high of $1.9350, while the dollar was down over 1 percent against the Swiss franc at 1.2120 francs .

The dollar was down 0.4 percent at 115.78 yen , after a broad unwinding of carry trades pushed it lower against the low-yielding Japanese currency to 2-1/2 month low.

The euro was up 0.7 percent on the day at 151.53 yen , off its record high of 151.68 yen set last week.

The ECB is expected to raise interest rates next month to 3.5 percent, enriching the euro's yield appeal. The Federal Reserve is expected to hold rates steady for some time while the Bank of Japan is expected to tighten by March.

CHINA DIVERSIFICATION

Some analysts cited a media report quoting a Chinese central bank official warning Asian countries from holding too many of their reserves in dollars as supporting the euro.

Investors are wary that China, which holds the world's biggest foreign exchange reserves of above $1 trillion, might diversify out of dollar assets. Such speculation helped the euro hit a record high above $1.36 in late 2004.

Wu Xiaoling, vice governor of the People's Bank of China, said in an academic paper that east Asian nations' reserves were at risk from too much exposure to the falling dollar.

"They are very explicit comments for the PBOC. Even if it's an academic paper, if it comes to the market it will move the market," said UBS chief currency strategist Mansoor Mohi-Uddin.

The yen hardly budged on comments by Bank of Japan Policy Board member Toshikatsu Fukuma, who said the central bank will tread carefully when conducting monetary policy and will not be guided by any preset views on the timing of rate adjustments.

© Reuters 2006. All Rights Reserved.

 

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