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Wednesday November 29, 2006 - 21:25:10 GMT
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FOREX-Dollar rallies on U.S. data, European officials

FOREX-Dollar rallies on U.S. data, European officials
Wed Nov 29, 2006 4:19pm ET137

(Recasts, updates prices)

By Vivianne Rodrigues

NEW YORK, Nov 29 (Reuters) - The dollar rose on Wednesday, bolstered by a report showing faster U.S. economic growth than previously estimated and warnings from European officials about the euro's recent surge.

Against the euro, the dollar firmed for the first time in five straight sessions, but remained near fresh 20-month lows hit overnight. Also, sterling was only around a cent away from 14-year highs against the dollar.

The U.S. gross domestic product report mitigated recent expectations the Federal Reserve would cut interest rates in the first quarter of 2007. Higher rates, particularly in short-dated deposits, make U.S. securities more attractive and increase demand for the dollars.

"The gains in the dollar were triggered in part by the good GDP report, but also, and more importantly, by the notion that the Fed may not need to cut interest rates in the first quarter of 2007 after all," said Samarjit Shankar, a director for global foreign exchange strategy at Mellon Financial Corp. in Boston.

In late afternoon trading in New York, the euro slipped 0.4 percent to $1.3149.

The greenback was already up against major currencies before the U.S. data, recovering from recent sharp losses that were triggered by growing expectations of a Fed interest-rate cut to counter weakening growth.

The U.S. economy expanded at a 2.2 percent annual rate during the third quarter, faster than the 1.6 percent pace first estimated and above Wall Street's expectations for a 1.8 percent gain. For details, see [ID:nN29343363].

European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet on Wednesday said he would not comment on foreign exchange rates after he delivered a speech at a London business school.

Still, earlier in the session, French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin said the single currency's recent rise was weighing on competitiveness. French Finance Minister Thierry Breton said strong movements in currencies are never good, reiterating a call for collective vigilance.

"The impact of those commentaries by European officials should not be completely discounted," said Shankar. "They help put a cap on a rapid rise on the euro."

Over the last week, the euro had risen nearly 3 percent against the dollar, bringing gains since January to more than 11 percent.

The dollar was up 0.25 percent at 116.38 yen in volatile trading as some investors tried to break through the 116.50-yen level.

The yen was supported early by surprisingly strong Japanese industrial output data that raised expectations the Bank of Japan might increase interest rates as early as December.

Later, investors tried to break the pair out of the 115.50- to 116.50-yen range. When that failed, the dollar fell against the yen before dollar buyers again stepped in for another assault on the upper end of that band.

The sterling traded down 0.3 percent against the dollar at $1.9456. Earlier, the pound had climbed to a 2-year high of $1.9545, a few ticks away from levels hit just before the 1992 sterling crisis, when Britain had to abandon its participation in the European Exchange Rate Mechanism and sterling collapsed.

Weaker-than-expected U.S. new home sales data caused a brief fall in the dollar against the euro, but failed to have any lasting impact on currency trading. [ID:nN28289088]

In another report, known as the Beige Book, the Fed said most areas of the United States showed moderate economic growth through the first weeks of November. [ID:nWBT006230]

(Additional reporting by Amanda Cooper and Nick Olivari)

© Reuters 2006. All Rights Reserved.


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