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Wednesday February 14, 2007 - 11:35:54 GMT
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FOREX-Euro boosted by robust growth, Bernanke eyed

FOREX-Euro boosted by robust growth, Bernanke eyed
Wed Feb 14, 2007 6:25am ET29

(Updates price, adds quotes, changes byline)

By Veronica Brown

LONDON, Feb 14 (Reuters) - The euro rallied broadly on Wednesday, hitting a six-week high against the dollar and 8-year peak versus the Swiss franc as this week's strong euro zone growth data boosted expectations for further monetary tighening. The dollar was steady against the yen ahead of Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's two-day congressional testimony which could give further insight on the future path of U.S. interest rates.

Data on Tuesday showed growth in the euro zone economy surged to 0.9 percent in the fourth quarter, on par with U.S. growth rates. This cemented expectations the European Central Bank will raise interest rates to 3.75 percent in March and perhaps more later this year.

"Clearly the European story is quite a positive one as the (growth) data was very strong," Westpac currency strategist Geoff Kendrick said.

However, he said the euro's rise could also be attributed to a broader softening in the dollar as markets pondered where the Fed stands now on rates, currently at 5.25 percent.

"The market is moving in to a new phase where they wonder what the next move is -- is it more Fed hikes or will they put some of those cuts back in. We have to wait for Bernanke this afternoon," he added.

By 1101 GMT, the euro was up 0.4 percent on the day at $1.3088, having risen as high as $1.3100 , its highest since early January. It was up 0.3 percent at 158.40 yen , inching closer to Monday's record high of 159.00. It rose to 1.6281 per Swiss franc , its strongest since early 1999. The dollar was steady at 121.17 yen .

Bank of England Governor Mervyn King waded into the debate over yen weakness, saying the consequence of low interest rates in Japan was a weaker exchange rate and that it seemed odd to call for flexible rates and then complain when they move.


Bernanke will deliver the Fed's twice-yearly monetary policy report on Wednesday and Thursday, with investors watching to see if he reiterates concerns about inflation that other Fed officials expressed last week.

Expectations that the Fed will leave the funds rate on hold for a while at 5.25 percent will be strengthened if Bernanke highlights upside risks to economic growth and inflation, analysts said.

"We expect the chairman to reiterate the concern stated in the most recent FOMC statement that tight resource utilisation has the potential to sustain inflationary pressures," JP Morgan said in a note to clients.

"On the margin, such comments could give USD a minor boost, but the revisions that we expect to the growth outlook relative to July may negate this benefit."

The dollar had weakened broadly on Tuesday after data showing a wider-than-expected U.S. trade deficit in December, which led economists to predict downward revisions to fourth-quarter economic growth data.

In Japan, investors are awaiting the release of fourth quarter growth data on Thursday which could give clues on whether the Bank of Japan would raise interest rates to 0.5 percent at its Feb 20-21 meeting.

But analysts say a rate hike is unlikely to relieve downward pressure on the yen from carry trades as Japan's rates are still much lower than those in other industrialised countries.

© Reuters 2007. All Rights Reserved.


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