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Friday January 12, 2007 - 11:35:29 GMT
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FOREX-Euro steadies near 1-1/2 mth lows, dlr/yen strong

FOREX-Euro steadies near 1-1/2 mth lows, dlr/yen strong
Fri Jan 12, 2007 6:18am ET145

(Updates prices, adds quotes, changes byline)

By Carolyn Cohn

LONDON, Jan 12 (Reuters) - The euro steadied near earlier 1-1/2 month lows against the dollar on Friday, a day after European Central Bank chief Jean-Claude Trichet signalled that the next rate hike would come in March rather than February.

The dollar hit a 13-month peak against the yen, as investors noted that even if the Bank of Japan raises interest rates to 0.5 percent next week as expected, the yen will remain the lowest yielder among the major currencies.

In the United States, a string of solid economic data has boosted expectations that the Federal Reserve will be in no hurry to cut rates from 5.25 percent, as many had expected late last year. U.S. retail sales for December are due at 1330 GMT.

"The comments from Trichet were on the dovish side and the market is short the euro, so it is not too surprising to see a bit of short-covering ahead of the weekend and also ahead of the U.S. retail sales numbers," said Michael Klawitter, currency strategist at Dresdner Kleinwort in Frankfurt.

By 1054 GMT, the euro was up slightly on the day at $1.2906 after touching a 1-1/2-month low under $1.2880 earlier in the day.

The euro hit an 18-month low against sterling for a second straight day after a surprise rate hike from the Bank of England on Thursday, to 5.25 percent.

The ECB held rates at 3.5 percent on Thursday, and at the post-decision press conference Trichet did not speak of the need for "vigilance" on inflation -- which is usually seen as a code word for a rate hike the following month.

In a Reuters poll taken after the ECB meeting, the median forecast showed an 80 percent chance of a 25-basis-point rate hike in March. For details see [ECB/INT].

ECB Governing Council members Yves Mersch, Nicholas Garganas and Guy Quaden speak at a conference at 1500 GMT.


The dollar reached a 13-month peak of 120.73 yen before easing to 120.50 yen, little changed on the day.

The dollar broke through the key 120 yen level on Thursday for the first time since December 2005, despite the possibility that the Bank of Japan could raise the overnight call rate to a decade-high 0.5 percent from 0.25 percent next week.

BOJ Governor Toshihiko Fukui provided no clues on a January rate increase in a speech on Friday, only reiterating that the central bank will watch economic and price conditions for policy closely.

Japanese Finance Minister Koji Omi speaks in London at 1330 GMT.

In the United States, economists expect the headline retail sales number to show a 0.6 percent monthly rise in the holiday shopping month of December, slowing from the robust 1.0 percent increase in November.

"The market is focusing on the retail sales data," said Kamal Sharma, currency strategist at Bank of America.

"U.S. yields are playing catch-up with the strong economic data we have had, and the ongoing liquidation of short dollar positions is continuing."

The dollar lost 12 percent against the euro last year as investors bet on narrowing yield differentials between the U.S. and the euro zone, but the U.S. currency has clawed back ground to gain more than 2 percent against the euro in January.

© Reuters 2007. All Rights Reserved.


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