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Thursday December 7, 2006 - 11:21:38 GMT
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FOREX-Euro steady vs dlr before ECB, all eyes on Trichet

FOREX-Euro steady vs dlr before ECB, all eyes on Trichet
Thu Dec 7, 2006 6:06am ET16

(Updates price, adds quotes, changes byline)

By Toni Vorobyova

LONDON, Dec 7 (Reuters) - The euro held firm against the dollar on Thursday, with investors looking to the European Central Bank for a widely expected interest rate rise and signs of whether more hikes will follow.

The yen was broadly firm as Bank of Japan board members have suggested interest rates will go up soon, perhaps as early as this month.

Some expect the ECB to raise rates further after an expected hike today to 3.5 percent, although a recent surge in the euro makes it less clear what message ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet will send about rates at his news conference.

"We are stuck in quite tight ranges ahead of the ECB press conference and people are perhaps slightly concerned that the ECB may say something about the strength of the euro over the last couple of weeks," said Adam Cole, senior currency strategist at Royal Bank of Canada Capital Markets.

"Ultimately we don't think they will but I think that is preventing investors from taking a strong view on the currency at the moment."

By 1053 GMT, the euro was steady on the day at $1.3284 . It hit a 20-month high of $1.3367 earlier this week, just 3 cents short of 2004's all time high.

The yen was up around 0.3 percent at 114.83 per dollar and 152.64 per euro , close to this week's four-month peak.

The dollar was also under pressure after the People's Bank of China said in its 2006 financial stability report the U.S. currency could slide if investors shunned dollar-denominated assets due to the growing U.S. trade deficit.

ECB, JOBS WATCH Most observers expect Trichet to stick to his previous message on foreign exchange, referring to a September statement by the Group of Seven rich nations, which said excessive currency swings were unwelcome.

The ECB will also provide a fresh set of forecasts. It is likely to predict inflation of about 2.2 percent in 2007.

In terms of monetary policy outlook, most analysts expect Trichet to retain a tightening bias.

"Will the policy stance continue to be characterised as 'accommodative' and the forward-looking statement be kept the same? Our answer is yes. This would be seen as an indication of additional hikes next year," JP Morgan said in a client note.

Another key event risk for markets is the U.S. non-farm payrolls report on Friday.

Investors believe that if the Federal Reserve cuts interest rates from the current 5.25 percent next year, this would erode the dollar's yield advantage, especially with other central banks poised to keep tightening monetary policy.

Sterling traded at $1.9681 ahead of a Bank of England policy meeting at which the central bank is seen keeping rates at 5.0 percent. It hit a 14-year high near $1.9850 last week.

Australian and New Zealand currencies both gained strongly versus the U.S. dollar.

"We are still seeing high yield currencies outperform generally and they've also both got strong domestic stories today: the employment numbers out of Australia and a very hawkish statement from (the Reserve Bank of New Zealand) which we are taking to signal another rate hike from the RBNZ early next year," said RBC's Adam Cole.

© Reuters 2006. All Rights Reserved


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