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Friday December 29, 2006 - 12:13:18 GMT
Reuters - www.reuters.com

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FOREX-Euro rises, set to end 2006 on firm footing

FOREX-Euro rises, set to end 2006 on firm footing
Fri Dec 29, 2006 4:53am ET148

(Changes dateline, byline, updates prices, adds quotes)

By Toni Vorobyova

LONDON, Dec 29 (Reuters) - The euro firmed against the dollar and the yen on Friday -- the last trading day of the year -- supported by wide spread expectations that the European Central Bank will carry on raising interest rates in 2007.

The case for more euro zone rate hikes got a boost from stronger than expected November money supply data on Friday and from comments on Thursday by ECB Governing Council member Yves Mersch, who said rates remain low in historical terms.

In contrast, a string of strong data on the U.S. housing market, consumer confidence and manufacturing over the past two days has failed to shake off expectations that a slowing economy could force the Federal Reserve to start cutting rates.

"Expectations of European rate hikes early next year are still alive. The M3 numbers were a lot stronger than expected and will support that view, and I do think we will continue to grind higher in euro/dollar as we go into next week," said Adam Cole, senior currency strategist at RBC Capital Markets.

Annual euro zone M3 growth rate jumped to 9.3 percent in November from 8.5 percent the previous month and above a consensus forecast of 8.6 percent.

The data failed to move the euro but analysts said the ample liquidity supported further euro area monetary tightening.

The euro was up 0.1 percent at $1.3164 by 0914 GMT, on track to end 2006 with a gain of more than 11 percent after a 12 percent fall in 2005.

The euro also gained versus sterling and climbed 0.2 percent on the day to 156.60 yen , near a record high of 156.73 yen hit on Thursday and up 12 percent on the year.

INTO THE NEW YEAR

No major economic indicators are due from the United States, and activity in the market is expected to be subdued ahead of a long weekend to mark the start of 2007.

"It's obviously very thin markets this week ... as people start to look forward to 2007," said Geoff Kendrick, currency strategist at Westpac.

"Our view is that the bulk of the euro run up is behind us now, that you will start to get stronger data from the U.S. and perhaps stronger words from the Fed."

The dollar was steady at 118.91 yen , little changed from late New York trade on Thursday. It stayed in sight of a two-month peak of 119.23 yen marked on Tuesday.

Despite expectations that the Bank of Japan will bump rates up to 0.5 percent before the end of March, few in the market believe the yen's yield disadvantage will shrink quickly.

Investors' demand for higher-yielding currencies buoyed the Australian and New Zealand dollars on Friday, which boast official interest rates of 6.25 and 7.25 percent respectively.

The Aussie struck a fresh 9-1/2-year high against the yen , while the Kiwi scaled a one-year peak against the yen and the dollar .

Sterling hit an eight-year high against the yen for a second day in a row.

Expectations in the market that the Bank of England may push rates higher in 2007 have helped sterling climb 14 percent against the dollar this year.

© Reuters 2006. All Rights Reserved

 

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