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Friday December 29, 2006 - 19:51:11 GMT
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FOREX-Euro climbs to record high vs yen, dollar weakens

FOREX-Euro climbs to record high vs yen, dollar weakens
Fri Dec 29, 2006 2:43pm ET144

(Updates prices, adds year-on-year currency gains, Saddam news)

By Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss

NEW YORK, Dec 29 (Reuters) - The euro hit record highs against the yen for a second day on Friday, supported by expectations the European Central Bank will keep raising interest rates, while the dollar weakened in holiday-thinned trading.

The dollar edged lower for a third straight session against a basket of six major currencies <.DXY>. Dealers said with volume drying up and no economic data to provide any trading cues, the currency was at the mercy of short-term flows.

In a lackluster session, euro/yen was the main mover. The euro extended its gain to more than 12 percent for the year, the currency's biggest annual rise against the yen since the launch of the single European currency in 1999.

"We're keeping an eye on euro/yen, which seems to be flows-driven at the moment," said Steven Butler, director of foreign exchange trading at Scotia Capital in Toronto. The euro rose as high as 157.19 on electronic trading platform EBS, extending gains after triggering options barriers at 157.

By midafternoon trading, the euro was at 157.04 yen , up 0.5 percent on the day.

The single currency also was 0.4 percent firmer against the dollar at $1.3196 . On the year, the euro gained about 11.4 percent against the greenback.

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

The 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.

Analysts said ample liquidity supported further monetary tightening in the euro zone, but the data failed to move the euro significantly.

In the United States, a string of strong data on the housing market, consumer confidence and manufacturing failed to shake expectations that a slowing economy could still force the Federal Reserve to cut rates next year.

"A far stronger-than-expected U.S. consumer confidence reading, combined with a modest increase in new home sales, is certainly doing little to suggest the Fed needs to accelerate any shift toward a more dovish monetary policy," said David Jones, chief markets analyst, at CMC Markets in London.

"But for the time being the greenback is appearing to find few supporters. ... As we move toward another long weekend break...direction is going to be difficult to call and thinner volumes also stand to accentuate any volatility."

Reports on Friday that former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein could be hanged within hours failed to move a market that was already winding down for the year. See [nL29818179].

The dollar slipped 0.2 percent against the Swiss franc to 1.2187 franc . It was down about 7.2 percent in 2006.

Sterling edged 0.2 percent lower to $1.9577 , and on the year it rose about 13.8 percent. Against the yen, the dollar gained 0.1 percent to 119.00 yen and was roughly up 1 percent on the year.

The dollar has slipped around 8.2 percent against a basket of six major currencies this year, its worst performance since a 14.7 percent decline in 2003.

(Additional reporting by David McMahon)

© Reuters 2006. All Rights Reserved.


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