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Tuesday November 28, 2006 - 11:52:05 GMT
Reuters - www.reuters.com

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FOREX-Euro eyes 20-mth high vs dlr, hits record peak vs yen

FOREX-Euro eyes 20-mth high vs dlr, hits record peak vs yen
Tue Nov 28, 2006 6:30am ET135

(Adds quotes, updates prices)

By Veronica Brown

LONDON, Nov 28 (Reuters) - The euro inched towards recent 20-month highs against the dollar, while it hit another record peak versus the low-yielding yen on Tuesday as European policymakers sounded sanguine on the euro's exchange rate.

Austrian Finance Minister Karl-Heinz Grasser, when asked about the euro's current strength at a European Union finance ministers meeting, said: "It's nothing special at all."

Eurogroup Chairman Jean-Claude Juncker was equally unperturbed, saying the current euro exchange rate was not a cause for concern, while European Central Bank Governing Council member Nout Wellink also said he was not concerned as the economy was on a very strong growth trend.

"The general thinking is clearly they (ministers) have come out and said, quite rightly, the exchange rate is a reflection of a stronger European economy," said Jeremy Hodges, head of FX sales at Lloyds TSB.

However, some analysts said the momentum built up behind the euro's rally was begining to erode the policymaker comments' significance.

"When you have breaks like this, more often than not what officials say doesn't really matter too much, because a break such as this triggers its own flows," Mellon Bank head of foreign exchange research Ian Gunner said.

Market sentiment remained with the euro against the dollar, as investors focused on a stagnant interest rate outlook in the United States compared with expectations for further tightening in the euro zone.

However, some market players said that could change depending on how several U.S. economic indicators due this week pan out.

By 1110 GMT, the euro was up 0.1 percent on the day at $1.3148 , near a 20-month high of $1.3172 hit on Monday.

Since the dollar began to slide last Wednesday the euro has strengthened by over 2 percent, taking its gains for the year to around 11 percent.

Against the low-yielding Japanese currency, the euro was at 152.89 yen , having hit a lifetime peak of 152.99, according to Reuters data.

While racking up a succession of new highs, the euro has risen 9 percent against the yen since the start of the year.

Sterling rose to within two ticks of Monday's 2-year high of $1.9465 , while the dollar was a touch higher on the day at 116.20 yen .

U.S. DATA, BERNANKE DUE

Bullish sentiment in the euro area was backed up by robust German consumer sentiment data. The forward-looking GfK consumer sentiment indicator, based on a survey of 2,000 Germans, rose to 9.4 for December from an upwardly revised 9.3 in November.

The European Central Bank will almost certainly raise interest rates to 3.5 percent at its policy meeting in December and is expected to keep hiking rates next year, narrowing the gap on the Federal Reserve's current level of 5.25 percent.

For clues about the U.S. rate outlook, traders were waiting for comments from the Fed chairman as well as data this week including figures for housing and manufacturing -- two sectors that have been key to a slowdown in the U.S. economy.

Fed chief Ben Bernanke is due to speak at 1730 GMT and is expected to acknowledge the softness in the economy but reiterate the Fed's stance that inflation is still too high for comfort, which would signal that rates won't fall soon.

Before that, the market will scrutinise the October report on existing housing sales and the November reading for consumer confidence, both due at 1500 GMT.

"Overall the dollar looks vulnerable to bad news and we continue to see an environment of shallow corrections and marginal new USD Index lows over coming sessions," ING analyst Chris Turner said in a note to clients.

(Additional reporting by Sylvia Westall)

© Reuters 2006. All Rights Reserved.

 

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