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Tuesday December 19, 2006 - 22:00:50 GMT
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FOREX-Dollar dips against euro as Ifo sparks selloff

Tue Dec 19, 2006 4:34pm ET

NEW YORK, Dec 19 (Reuters) - The dollar fell against the euro on Tuesday after surprisingly strong German business sentiment report released overnight spurred traders to take out technical targets.

A separate report showing a sharp rise in U.S. wholesale prices last month gave the greenback a brief boost, but dollar selling against major currencies soon resumed, partly because the data were offset by last week's soft reading on U.S. consumer prices.

"I don't think this one number is going to set off the inflation alarm bells at the Federal Reserve," said Alex Beuzelin, senior market analyst at Ruesch International in Washington, referring to the wholesale inflation data.

By late afternoon, the euro was up 0.7 percent at $1.3190 , while the dollar was relatively unchanged at 118.10 yen . Sterling was up more than 1 percent at $1.9686 .

Throughout the New York session, dealers pushed the euro up through technical levels around $1.3170 and $1.3210, hoping to trigger automatic orders to buy euros and sell dollars. The next technical obstacle for the euro was around $1.3250.

Traders apparently shrugged off a semiannual report from the U.S. Treasury Department, which declined to name China a currency manipulator but pressed for more flexibility in the yuan. For details click on [ID:nWBT006320].

While benchmark U.S. interest rates are thought to be on indefinite hold at 5.25 percent, markets are gearing up for another rate hike in early 2007 from the European Central Bank.

Tuesday's report that German business sentiment, measured by the Munich-based Ifo research institute, hit its highest in 15 years strengthened that view by suggesting that European companies have not been squeezed by the euro's recent gains. [ID:nL19235795].

"The Ifo certainly has boosted the euro. It reaffirms the positive growth outlook for Germany and the euro zone going into 2007 and suggests that the ECB will continue to hike rates," said Mitul Kotecha, head of global FX research at Calyon in London.

Traders said investors who were stopped out of long euro and sterling positions due to a dollar rebound late last week were rushing back in to reestablish short dollar trades.

The euro jumped 0.7 percent to a record high above 155.85 yen after the Bank of Japan kept interest rates unchanged at 0.25 percent, as expected, and BOJ Governor Toshihiko Fukui warned that domestic consumption and consumer price gains had softened

Market players kept a close eye on developments in Thailand after the country's central bank announced regulations on foreign currency inflows designed to curb what it called speculation in the Thai baht.

That sparked the baht's biggest fall against the dollar in 4-1/2 years on Monday and sparked a nearly 15 percent plunge in Thailand's benchmark stock index <.SETI> on Tuesday.

In recent trade, the Thai baht was trading at 35.850 per dollar , near its multiyear low at 35.970 reached after the capital controls were announced.

Some analysts worry other countries in the region may be tempted to follow Thailand's lead, for fear currency strength will make them less competitive with China, where the yuan's rise has been modest.

But Alan Ruskin, international strategist at RBS Greenwich Capital in Greenwich, Connecticut, said contagion fears have faded somewhat now that Thailand's finance minister announced that equities would be excluded from the regulations.

"It really gave you a feeling that this wasn't thought out beforehand," he said. "The Thais have made a meal of this. I don't think they're an example to anybody."

© Reuters 2006. All Rights Reserved.


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