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Monday January 29, 2007 - 22:11:58 GMT
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GLOBAL MARKETS-Dollar hits 4-yr peak vs yen, oil down

GLOBAL MARKETS-Dollar hits 4-yr peak vs yen, oil down
Mon Jan 29, 2007 4:58pm ET148

(Updates prices, adds comment, changes byline)

By Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss

NEW YORK, Jan 29 (Reuters) - The dollar scaled four-year peaks against the yen on Monday amid expectations of strong U.S. economic data this week, but oil fell after comments from Saudi Arabia saying current prices were good for consumers.

U.S. blue-chip stocks, meanwhile, traded near flat to slightly higher as lower oil prices dragged down energy shares. Investors also exercised caution ahead of a Federal Reserve monetary policy meeting this week, trimming the market's earlier gains.

The Fed's Open Market Committee is expected to leave the key fed funds rate at 5.25 percent on Wednesday but investors are wary of making big bets on equities before the Fed offers guidance on the likely course of future interest rate policy.

"This week is make-or-break week for the U.S. dollar," said Kathy Lien, chief fundamentals analyst, at Forex Capital Markets in New York.

"The foreign exchange market has turned very dollar-bullish after a series of upside surprises in economic data, causing a sharp plunge in rate cut expectations," she added.

The dollar rose as high as 122.20 yen , its highest level since December 2002, before retreating to 121.77, up 0.3 percent from late on Friday. Meanwhile, the euro rose 0.3 percent against the dollar to $1.2953.

Stronger-than-expected U.S. durable goods orders and new home sales data last week were the latest in a string of solid U.S. economic figures backing the view that the world's biggest economy might avoid a sharp slowdown.

In the energy market, U.S. crude ended $1.41 lower at $54.01 per barrel after trading down as far as $53.75, while London Brent crude dropped $1.61 a barrel to $53.68.

Warm weather in the Northern Hemisphere in early January spurred a drop in oil prices that has taken around 19 percent off crude costs since the start of the year, despite OPEC pledges to cut production.

U.S. Treasury debt prices slipped, lifting yields just shy of last week's five-and-a-half-month peaks, as investors awaited key economic reports and a Fed decision this week.

After a steep sell-off in bonds since early December, dealers will look to see if this week's economic growth data, inflation gauge and the jobs report reinforce or reverse perceptions of a resilient economy.

"The problem with the market is that it is increasingly losing any confidence that the Fed will cut rates this year," said Josh Stiles, bond strategist with research firm IDEAglobal in New York.

"The background is the mass of data coming after the Fed (meeting) and then a big round of supply with the February refunding," Stiles added.


The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> was up 3.76 points, or 0.03 percent, at 12,490.78. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> was down 1.56 points, or 0.11 percent, at 1,420.62. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> was up 5.60 points, or 0.23 percent, at 2,441.09.

On the NYSE, advancers were beating decliners 1,845 to 1,503 with 1,544,843,770 shares changing hands. There were 172 stocks hitting new highs and 21 hitting new lows on the big board on Monday.

Oil giant Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM.N: Quote, Profile , Research), which fell 0.56 percent to $73.20, was among the biggest drags on the Dow industrials and the S&P 500 index.

Among gainers, shares of Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. (BMY.N: Quote, Profile , Research) rose 4.7 percent to $27.43 after a report that the U.S. company, known for its cancer-fighting drugs, might be taken over.

The benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury note was down 5/32, with the yield at 4.8979 percent. The 2-year U.S. Treasury note was down 2/32, with the yield at 4.9954 percent. The 30-year U.S. Treasury bond was down 11/32, with the yield at 4.9982 percent.

European shares extended their gains on Monday, helped by merger talk and some encouraging corporate earnings updates offset a profit warning from Deutsche Telekom (DTEGn.DE: Quote, Profile , Research) which weighed on the telecoms sector.

The FTSEurofirst 300 <.FTEU3> rose 0.3 percent to 1,517.43 points, having hit a six-year high of 1,534.6 last week, while Japan's Nikkei <.N225> closed 0.28 percent higher at 17,470.46 points.

Euro zone government bonds fell on Monday as the market digested a batch of anti-inflation rhetoric from European Central Bank officials. Ten-year yields were up 3 basis points at 4.12 percent.

Officials including ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet and Governing Council Members Axel Weber and Klaus Liebscher have highlighted the risks of higher inflation in recent days, cementing expectations that European rates will rise from 3.5 percent as early as March.

Japan's benchmark 10-year JGB yield rose 4.0 basis points to 1.720 percent .

Commodities were mostly softer with the Reuters/Jefferies CRB Index <.CRB> down 4.94 points, or 1.67 percent, at 290.92, and gold futures settling $1.50 lower at $643.20 per ounce. (Additional reporting by Nick Olivari, Steven Johnson, Caroline Valetkevitch, Burton Frierson and Gene Ramos)

© Reuters 2007. All Rights Reserved.


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