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Thursday January 4, 2007 - 21:51:08 GMT
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FOREX-Dollar rally continues, supported by economic data

FOREX-Dollar rally continues, supported by economic data
Thu Jan 4, 2007 4:29pm ET

(Recasts; updates prices)
By Nick Olivari

NEW YORK, Jan 4 (Reuters) - The dollar climbed for the second straight day on Thursday, gaining support from a recent run of upbeat economic data that has lowered expectations the Federal Reserve may cut interest rates in the coming months.

The latest crop of U.S. economic data -- including pending homes sales and the Institute for Supply Management's report on the services sector -- did nothing to change a view that although the economy is slowing, there are no signs of a sharp deceleration in growth on the horizon.

The dollar has also gained support this week from falling oil prices, some analysts said. Traders have also been betting on the rerun of a seasonal pattern in recent years in which the dollar tends to decline in December and rebound in January.
"The usual seasonal factors are helping the dollar," said Marc Chandler, senior currency strategist at Brown Brothers Harriman in New York. "And we've had a string of quite strong economic data. ... I still think the biggest risk we have to face this year is a reacceleration of the economy."

The dollar gained across the board, except against the yen. The Japanese unit was bolstered by the growing view that the Bank of Japan may raise interest rates again as early as this month.

The euro was down 0.6 percent at $1.3080 in late afternoon New York trade, extending Wednesday's losses. It was the worst two days for the euro against the dollar since April, 2006.

The dollar also rose 0.5 percent to 1.2329 Swiss francs .

Among the biggest losers were the high-yielding Australian and New Zealand dollars, which lost 0.9 percent and 1.3 percent, respectively.

"When the euro is struggling to make new highs against the dollar, dollar bullishness filters through to other currencies," said Joe Francomano, vice president of foreign exchange at Erste Bank. "Of course, it's all subject to change because of (Friday's U.S.) payroll number."

Meanwhile, the yen strengthened across the board, taking a lead from a spike in Japanese government bond yields on Thursday. Japanese media have reported over the past week that the Bank of Japan will discuss lifting the overnight lending rate to 0.5 percent at its next policy meeting on Jan. 17-18.

The dollar fell 0.2 percent against the Japanese currency to 119.07 yen. The euro fell 0.8 percent against the yen . It was the biggest one-day percentage loss for the euro zone's single currency against the yen since May 2006.

The ISM's report on the non-manufacturing sector showed the index slipped to 57.1 in December from 58.9 the previous month, broadly in line with expectations. Meanwhile, pending home sales slipped slightly in November, but held above lows touched last year, suggesting the sector may be stabilizing.
With that data out of the way, the market's attention is focused on the government's nonfarm payrolls report scheduled for release on Friday, the most closely watched barometer of the U.S. labor market.

Some forecasters have ratcheted down their forecasts for jobs growth in December since Wednesday, when the ADP National Employment Report showed the first monthly net job loss in the private sector since 2003.

Economists expect jobs growth of 100,000 for the month, the median estimate of a Reuters survey shows, a decline from 132,000 in the previous month. A derivatives auction on Thursday suggested the market may be bracing for an even lower reading, though, with traders betting on around 82,000.

© Reuters 2007. All Rights Reserved.


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