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Thursday December 28, 2006 - 12:17:27 GMT
Reuters - www.reuters.com

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FOREX-Euro gains on ECB outlook, U.S. data in focus

FOREX-Euro gains on ECB outlook, U.S. data in focus
Thu Dec 28, 2006 7:01am ET29

(Changes byline, adds quotes, updates prices)

By Toni Vorobyova

LONDON, Dec 28 (Reuters) - The euro rose against the dollar and yen on Thursday, bolstered by expectations that the European Central Bank will continue raising interest rates next year.

In contrast, U.S. rates are widely expected to be cut in 2007, with investors looking to indicators of manufacturing activity, consumer confidence and more numbers from the housing market for guidance on the timing of such a move.

The dollar got a brief boost on Wednesday from a surprisingly robust U.S. housing report, showing sales of new homes rising an above-consensus 3.4 percent in November.

"This lent some support to the Fed's more optimistic scenario which should translate into markets expecting that any rate cut from the Fed should not take place as soon as they thought previously," said Johan Javeus, FX strategist at SEB Merchant Banking in Stockholm.

"But the long term trend is still that the dollar should probably weaken. We still expect that the Fed will actually cut rates some time during the first half of next year while the ECB should continue to raise interest rates."

Liquidity remained thin due to seasonal holidays, with Japanese markets closed on Friday.

By 1127 GMT, the euro was up 0.26 percent on the day at $1.3152. It also climbed a quarter of a percent to 156.23 yen , around 20 ticks off last week's record high and hit a 6-1/2 year high at 1.6106 Swiss francs . The ECB is widely expected to raise rates to 3.75 percent in the first three months of 2007, narrowing the yield differential with the United States where rates stand at 5.25 percent.

U.S. existing home sales are seen at 6.2 million in November from 6.24 million the previous month, whilst December consumer confidence is forecast to ease to 102.0 from 102.9.

"Our forecast is that sales will move lower still when we get November's figure later today. In a quiet week for trading, this might be enough to ... enable euro/dollar to target another run at $1.3180," Calyon said in a note to clients.

Chicago PMI for December, also due at 1500 GMT, will be of interest after the Institute for Supply Management's U.S.-wide manufacturing index unexpectedly fell in to contraction territory below the 50 mark in November.

EYEING BOJ

The dollar stood steady at 118.84 yen after scaling a two-month peak of 119.22 yen on Tuesday.

Asia-based traders said Japanese importers actively bought the dollar on Thursday, the last business day of the year for many companies in Japan.

The market expects the BOJ to raise the overnight call rate to 0.5 percent from 0.25 percent before the end of March, and many players say a January hike cannot be ruled out.

BOJ Governor Toshihiko Fukui said in an interview published in Japan's Sankei newspaper that personal consumption is rising and reiterated that the central bank will analyse upcoming data when deciding on the timing of the next rate increase.

That seemed to reinforce the risk of an imminent rate rise after expectations for a hike next month had shrunk following Fukui's statement last week that Japanese consumption and consumer prices had softened.

© Reuters 2006. All Rights Reserved.

 

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