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Friday January 19, 2007 - 21:34:37 GMT
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FOREX-Dollar little changed as six week rally wanes

FOREX-Dollar little changed as six week rally wanes
Fri Jan 19, 2007 4:16pm ET28

(Updates prices, adds comment)

By Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss

NEW YORK, Jan 19 (Reuters) - The U.S. dollar ended little changed on Friday, giving up on early gains seen after a stronger-than-expected U.S. consumer sentiment report, as traders sold the currency as a six week rally began to wane.

A surprisingly strong Reuters/University of Michigan survey of U.S. consumer sentiment capped a week of generally solid U.S. economic data, bolstering expectations the Federal Reserve won't cut U.S. interest rates any time soon.

The consumer confidence report, which showed a reading of 98, well above Wall Street expectations, had lifted the dollar early in the day. The rally lost steam going into the weekend as traders opted to take profits once the euro failed to breach technical levels against the dollar at $1.29.

"People already had most of the dollars that they wanted, so there was very little follow-through buying," said Ron Simpson, director of currency research at Action Economics in Tampa, Florida.

"The $1.29 level in euro/dollar has been solid support all week. Given that it's a Friday, there wasn't a whole lot of ammunition to try and push through $1.29, so we're seeing a bit of weekend short-covering," he added.

Late afternoon in New York, the euro was flat to slightly up at $1.2962. The dollar was little changed against the yen at 121.23 .

Against the Swiss franc, the dollar was also nearly unchanged at 1.2478 francs and so was sterling, which last traded at $1.9737 .

A string of mostly strong U.S. data in recent days, culminating in Friday's consumer confidence survey, has reduced expectations for an interest rate cut this year from the Fed's policy-setting committee which next meets January 30 and 31.

"The recent jump in consumer sentiment heralds a solid kick-off for the economy in 2007," said Brian Bethune, U.S. economist for Global Insight in Lexington, Massachusetts.

"The sharp increase in the bellwether consumer expectations index suggests that real consumption spending should clock ahead at a very good rate in the first quarter of 2007," he added.

Fed speakers were also in focus on Friday, with Richmond Fed President Jeffrey Lacker and Kansas City Fed President Thomas Hoening both echoing other central bank officials' tough talk on inflation.

Lacker said the main policy risk to the U.S. economy is for inflation to surge again or not subside, although there are tentative signs of price pressure moderating. Hoenig, on the other hand said, current interest rates should be able to keep policy on hold for the time being.

Other than U.S. economic data and Fed rhetoric, dealers and analysts were still focused on the yen. Analysts said further yen weakness was likely as the Bank of Japan's decision to keep borrowing costs at 0.25 percent had given investors renewed vigor for carry trades, using low-yielding currencies to finance purchases of those giving higher returns.

The BOJ's vote also marked an abrupt shift in expectations and suggested that the Japanese central bank's path toward raising interest rates from zero will take even longer as the economy's expansion has turned patchy.

The euro was flat against the yen at 157.16 yen , according to electronic trading platform EBS, having earlier hit a high of 157.68 -- in sight of a record peak above 158 struck this month.

© Reuters 2007. All Rights Reserved


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