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Thursday December 14, 2006 - 22:53:51 GMT
Reuters - www.reuters.com

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FOREX-Dollar rises as US rate cut prospects weaken

FOREX-Dollar rises as US rate cut prospects weaken
Thu Dec 14, 2006 5:02pm ET144

(Adds comment, updates prices, changes byline)

By Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss

NEW YORK, Dec 14 (Reuters) - The dollar gained on Thursday as stronger-than-expected U.S. data strengthened the view that the Federal Reserve may not have to reduce interest rates just yet to stimulate the economy.

In the latest data to show resilience in the economy, the U.S. government said the number of people claiming initial unemployment benefits last week fell more sharply than economists had expected. That underpinned the dollar as it supported the view of a robust labor market evident in recent payrolls data.


"We had some good numbers out of the United States this week that were positive for the dollar," said Joseph Trevisani, chief market analyst at FX Solutions in Saddle River, New Jersey.

"We had weekly jobless claim numbers -- which may not be as important since it is a weekly report -- but they pointed to the right direction. All of these numbers look good for the American economy," he added.

The euro was last at $1.3140 against the dollar, having hit a session low at $1.3142, and down 0.6 percent on the day.

Meanwhile, the sell-off in fed funds futures gained momentum on Thursday amid signs of a stronger U.S. economy. Chances of a Fed rate cut by the end of the first quarter next year dropped to 10 percent, the lowest in a month, from 20 percent late on Wednesday. The futures market still favored a rate cut by the end of second quarter, but the easing was no longer being fully priced in.

Also remarks by European Central Bank Governing Council Member Vitor Constancio saying euro-zone inflation "is under control," fueled some modest selling of the euro against the dollar earlier, traders said, as that undermined prospects of further rate hikes in the region.

Against the Swiss franc, the dollar hit three-week highs while the euro rose to four-week peaks after the Swiss National Bank raised rates but halved its 2007 inflation outlook.

The dollar was last up 0.8 percent against the Swiss currency at 1.2148 francs, while the euro was up 0.2 percent at 1.5965 francs.

The dollar had come under almost unabated pressure over the last month as investors bought into the notion that the U.S. economy was slowing enough to warrant a cut in official interest rates by the Fed in early 2007.

The dollar further gained support from rising U.S. bond yields. U.S. Treasury prices fell, sending yields to three-week highs around 4.59 percent on the 10-year note, ahead of Friday's reading on consumer inflation.

"I think that along with Treasury yields pushing higher, we are seeing a good dollar push," said one trader with a U.S. asset management firm.

"Tomorrow after CPI we could see more dollar buying if it is a good number. This will push yields even higher," he said.

Wall Street economists are looking for the government's consumer price index to reflect that prices outside the food and energy sectors rose at a 0.2 percent pace in November, versus October's 0.1 percent rise.

"As long as EUR/USD remains below $1.3190 in Friday European and Asian trade, it will be expected to drop to the $1.3140 support in the event of a 0.2 percent (rise) in core CPI," said Ashraf Laidi, chief FX analyst at CMC Markets US in New York.

Meanwhile, prospects for a rate hike in Japan seemed to be fading after a newspaper report suggested that the Bank of Japan will stand pat at its meeting on Dec. 19.

The yen hit fresh record lows against the euro around 155.59 . The dollar rose 0.3 percent against the yen to 117.82 yen .

© Reuters 2006. All Rights Reserved.

 

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