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Thursday April 5, 2007 - 10:46:17 GMT
Reuters - www.reuters.com

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FOREX NEWS-Dlr rangebound before payrolls, BoE grabs limelight

FOREX-Dlr rangebound before payrolls, BoE grabs limelight
Thu Apr 5, 2007 6:23am ET161

(Changes byline, adds quotes, updates prices)

By Veronica Brown

LONDON, April 5 (Reuters) - The dollar was steady against other major currencies on Thursday, locked in ranges as investors looked to Friday's U.S. jobs report for fresh impetus.

Sterling players were sidelined ahead of a Bank of England rate decision. Speculation over the BoE's verdict at 1100 GMT has helped sterling firm this week as a sizeable minority bet on a rate hike from the current 5.25 percent.

The dollar, in contrast, came under pressure on Wednesday after data showed growth in the U.S. service sector slowed to a four-year low in March, reinforcing the view that U.S. interest rates could be cut later this year.

The jobs data on Friday will provide more clues on whether the Federal Reserve will lower rates from the current 5.25 percent to support the economy.

"Without doubt when you look at the (U.S.) numbers over the last few months, employment is slowing although not dramatically so," Mellon Bank head of currency research Ian Gunner said.

"There's always a risk of a rogue number on that and I guess if it was a weak one it would come at a bad time given that other releases are softening up a little," he added.

The U.S. economy is expected to have added 120,000 jobs in March, up from 97,000 in February.

By 1000 GMT, the dollar stood at 118.72 yen , pulling back from Wednesday's five-week high of 119.08 yen.

The euro was at $1.3361 , little changed on the day. The single currency was at 158.60 yen , hovering within reach a five-week high touched in the previous session.

BOE IN FOCUS

Sterling was 0.1 percent weaker at $1.9768 ahead of the BoE decision. Economists polled by Reuters last week gave a median 25 percent chance of an April rate hike, but speculation has grown on the chances of a hike with markets pricing in a fair chance of a move.

If the BoE does hike, British rates would probably move up to 5.5 percent, overtaking those of the United States. That would further boost sterling's yield appeal and could bring the psychologically key $2-pound level back within sight, analysts say.

"It's a very close call in terms of what everyone thinks in the market. There is a number of good indications that they (BoE) should pull the trigger, but on balance we think that the arguments for them to stand pat are more convincing at this juncture," Paul Mackel, senior currency strategist at HSBC said.

But if the bank leaves rates on hold, any sterling losses are likely to be ephemeral.

"We expect any correction to be short-lived, as was the case for the Australian dollar on Wednesday, especially in light of the likelihood of a hike next month," JP Morgan said in a research note.

The Aussie got a knock on Wednesday after the Reserve Bank of Australia left rates on hold, disappointing strong minority expectations of a hike. But the currency quickly recovered thanks to already high rates of 6.25 percent and the likelihood that the RBA will hike in coming months.

On Thursday, the Aussie rose above US$0.8210 , its highest in more than a decade, and soared to a 10-year high against the yen around 97.46 yen .

© Reuters 2007. All Rights Reserved

 

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