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Wednesday December 13, 2006 - 11:24:16 GMT
Reuters - www.reuters.com

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FOREX-Dollar steady vs euro ahead of US retail sales data

FOREX-Dollar steady vs euro ahead of US retail sales data
Wed Dec 13, 2006 6:07am ET28

(Changes byline, adds quotes, updates prices)

By Toni Vorobyova

LONDON, Dec 13 (Reuters) - The dollar held in a tight range versus the euro on Wednesday as investors looked to U.S. retail sales data at 1330 GMT for clues on whether the U.S. economy is sufficiently weak to require interest rate cuts in 2007.

The yen plumbed record lows against the euro and hit eight-year lows versus sterling and the Swiss franc as more investors took the view that the Bank of Japan would not raise rates at a policy meeting next week.

On Tuesday the dollar lost ground after a Federal Reserve policy meeting highlighted "substantial" weakness in the housing market while renewing a warning on inflation. It kept rates on hold at 5.25 percent as expected.

"The dollar is vulnerable after the FOMC statement ... They are not as hawkish as they used to be in their statements. If we get a below consensus reading in retail sales, as we expect, the dollar could come under more pressure," said Niels From, currency strategist at Dresdner Kleinwort in Frankfurt.

"Markets had only been pricing in a small probability of a Fed cut, there is space for the market to price in more probability of a rate cut in 2007."

A Reuters poll taken after the Fed's statement showed 13 out of 18 U.S. primary bond dealers believe it has finished raising rates and the next move will be a cut. Forecasts for end 2007 levels ranged from 3 to 6 percent.

The euro was at $1.3273 by 1050 GMT, steady on the day and within sight of a recent 20-month high of $1.3367.

Analysts said the single currency was well placed for further gains as the Fed's statement came after the European Central Bank lifted its rates to 3.5 percent last week and was expected to keep raising them next year, highlighting the dollar's dwindling yield advantage.

The euro's bullish rate outlook helped it score a record high around 155.50 yen as expectations for the Bank of Japan to tighten policy next week faded.

The yen also hit eight-year lows against sterling and the Swiss franc at 230.87 yen and 97.55 yen , respectively and a nine-year low versus the Australian dollar .

The dollar took advantage of the broad yen weakness, rising 0.2 percent to 117 yen .

US CONSUMER DATA EYED

Noting the Fed's comments on the U.S. housing market, investors were expected to turn their attention toward U.S. retail sales figures.

"Consensus is for a 0.2 percent (rise) month-on-month and a 0.3 percent figure ex autos, which looks about right. Even if the number comes in slightly better than expected, we believe the market will sell dollar index rallies," ING analyst Chris Turner said in a note to clients.

The yen was still weighed by tempered expectations of a BOJ rate rise after a meeting on Dec. 18-19, although some Asia-based traders said the possibility of a hike to 0.50 percent had not fizzled out altogether.

Yen overnight index swaps are pricing in roughly a 25-30 percent chance of a rate rise next week, compared with as high as 70 percent last week.

The slide in expectations stems largely from a rash of weak data in the past week that showed a downward revision in economic growth and weak machinery orders.

(Additional reporting by Carolyn Cohn)

© Reuters 2006. All Rights Reserved.

 

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