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Thursday January 4, 2007 - 00:34:53 GMT
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FOREX-Dollar gains as US Dec ISM beats forecasts

FOREX-Dollar gains as US Dec ISM beats forecasts
Wed Jan 3, 2007 4:31pm
NEW YORK, Jan 3 (Reuters) - The U.S. dollar advanced broadly on Wednesday, hitting two-month highs against the yen, after a survey showed the U.S. factory sector expanded in December, defying forecasts of another modest contraction.
The dollar jumped after the Institute for Supply Management said its manufacturing index climbed to 51.4 from 49.5 in November and above the 50 threshold that separates expansion and contraction. For details, see [nnN03391475]

The dollar pared gains midafternoon after the release of minutes from the Federal Reserve's December policy meeting even as the overall trend for the greenback remained up on the day. The minutes indicated the central bank sees increased downside risks to economic growth even as inflation remained the predominant concern.

"The fact that ISM came back above 50 puts the whole soft-landing, dollar-positive scenario back in play," said Boris Schlossberg, senior currency strategist at Forex Capital Markets in New York.

Led by strong gains against European currencies including sterling, the euro and the Swiss franc, the dollar had its biggest rise in around six months against a basket of six major currencies <.DXY>.

The euro was trading down 0.9 percent on the day at $1.3159, its biggest one-day decline since mid-July of last year.

Meanwhile, sterling tumbled 1.2 percent to $1.9495 , its biggest one-day decline since July 2005.

The dollar was up 0.5 percent at 119.35 yen after reaching as high as 119.68 on electronic trading platform EBS

The dollar rose around 1.1 percent against the Swiss currency, to 1.2264 francs .

Participants in the policy-making Federal Open Market Committee meeting said the slowdown in the housing sector continued to weigh heavily on economic activity in the United States. Although there was evidence that home sales might be stabilizing, residential investment was likely to fall further in coming quarters as builders reduced inventories, officials felt.

"The minutes are very much 'permanent hold' kind of minutes and I think they reflect an FOMC that was discussing a somewhat more downbeat economy on Dec. 12," said Lara Rhame, senior FX strategist at Credit Suisse in New York.
Earlier in the session, the dollar had given up some ground after a report showed employment in the U.S. private sector contracted unexpectedly in December. [ID:nNAT002355]

The soft report led some traders to speculate that the more closely watched nonfarm payrolls report -- due on Friday -- could also come in softer than expectations.

"It points to a pretty poor payroll number on Friday," said Shaun Osborne, senior currency strategist at TD Securities in Toronto.

A weak reading in that payrolls report would likely strengthen the view that the Federal Reserve may start cutting interest rates in coming months to shore up a slowing economy.

Late afternoon in New York, the futures market was still only pricing in a 12 percent chance of a rate cut by March, though chances of a rate cut by July had edged up to 84 percent from 80 percent. [ID:nCHB000247]

Elsewhere, the euro climbed to an eight-year high against the Swiss franc on Wednesday, as investors continued a broad trend of selling low yielding currencies.

(Additional reporting by Steven C. Johnson and Amanda Cooper)

© Reuters 2007. All Rights Reserved.


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