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Tuesday March 27, 2007 - 10:19:51 GMT
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FOREX NEWS-Euro up on strong Ifo, dollar steadies

FOREX-Euro up on strong Ifo, dollar steadies
Tue Mar 27, 2007 6:07am ET16

(Updates price, adds quotes, changes byline)

By Simon Falush

LONDON, March 27 (Reuters) - The euro rose against the dollar and yen on Tuesday after a stronger-than-expected Ifo German business climate survey added to expectations that the European Central Bank will raise interest rates this year.

Upbeat comments from ECB Governing Council members Nicholas Garganas and Klaus Liebscher also added support for the euro while investors were eyeing key U.S. consumer confidence data later in the session.

The Ifo headline index rose to 107.7 in March, compared with a forecast for a fall to 106.5 from February's 107.0. This has reinforced expectations the ECB would raise interest rates again to 4 percent this year from the current 3.75 percent.

"Europe's in pretty good shape. That's why the ECB's been tightening rates for the last 18 months and why it will continue to do so," said Geoff Kendrick, currency strategist at Westpac.

By 1000 GMT the euro had risen to the day's high of $1.3354 , up 0.1 percent. It was also up 0.1 percent at 157.71 yen . The dollar was broadly steady at 118.14 yen .

The Canadian dollar was the major gainer, rising half a percent against the dollar towards a recent three-month high before trimming gains as an election in Quebec knocked the separatist opposition to third place.

March U.S. consumer confidence data is due at 1400 GMT.

"The consumer confidence is of particular importance in order to assess the potential impact on consumption and the U.S. economy as a whole stemming from the housing sector," Citigroup said in a note to clients.


Garganas said euro zone interest rates do not seem to have peaked and the central bank may need to act if upside inflation risks appear.

Liebscher said the euro zone faces inflation clouds at the end of 2007 and close monitoring of the situation is important.

"Expectations on euro zone interest rates are too low. We think there will be two rises in interest rates by Q3 while the market is only pricing in one," said Ian Gunner, head of foreign exchange research at Mellon Financial Corporation.

The dollar steadied, having fallen broadly on Monday after data showed U.S. sales of new homes fell in February to the lowest level since June 2000, reigniting concern the slowing U.S. housing market has yet to stabilise.

"We all think there's an increasing risk the Fed is going to cut rates, that's creating a bit of uncertainty. You saw housing market data that was weak. But I don't think the Fed wants to rush into cutting rates dramatically as inflation still is a problem," said Adam Myers, currency strategist at UBS.

Investors are girding for the Fed to start cutting interest rates from the current 5.25 percent as soon as June to steer the economy into a soft landing.

After the new home sales data, interest rate futures pushed implied chances for a Fed rate cut by June to 32 percent from 26 percent.

Chicago Federal Reserve President Michael Moskow said in a speech prepared for delivery in Beijing on Tuesday that high inflation is a bigger concern for the United States than slower economic growth.

Moskow said weakness in housing posed the greatest risk to his economic outlook.

Investors are now keen to hear what Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke may say about the possible economic impact of the subprime mortgage problems during his congressional testimony on Wednesday.

Bernanke's testimony will take place a week after the Fed kept rates unchanged at 5.25 percent and dropped a reference to the possible need for "additional firming" of monetary policy from its post-meeting statement.

Cleveland Fed President Sandra Pianalto said in Prague the United States benefits from the fact that a large share of world currency reserves is held in dollars.

© Reuters 2007. All Rights Reserved.


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