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Wednesday April 25, 2007 - 10:46:39 GMT
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FOREX NEWS-Euro at 2-yr peak vs dlr, near record high, after Ifo

FOREX-Euro at 2-yr peak vs dlr, near record high, after Ifo
Wed Apr 25, 2007 6:34 AM ET

(changes byline, adds quotes, updates prices)

By Simon Falush

LONDON, April 25 (Reuters) - The euro rose to fresh two-year peaks against the dollar on Wednesday, and to within sight of its record high, after a strong German business sentiment index bolstered expectations of euro zone interest rate rises.

The dollar, meanwhile, weakened to its lowest level in two years against a basket of currencies after soft U.S. housing and confidence data on Tuesday backed growing expectations the Federal Reserve will cut borrowing costs this year.

The April German Ifo business sentiment index was 108.6, just above a forecast of 108.0 and above the March reading of 107.7. The current conditions and expectations indices also beat forecasts.

Germany's government raised its 2007 growth forecast (for more, click on link [nBEB001792]), while analysts said the Ifo data set the seal on the European Central Bank raising rates to 4 percent in June.

"If you look at the (Ifo's) business expectations component it's a very strong set of figures showing above trend growth. The move to 4 percent in June is a done deal," said Chris Turner, head of FX strategy at ING.

"It's now a question of when, not if, the euro breaks through the all time high and we see it hitting $1.38."

At 1010 GMT the euro was steady at $1.3648 , near a two-year peak hit earlier in the day at $1.3655 and close to an all-time high of $1.3670 struck in December 2004 on electronic trading platform EBS.

The dollar index was at 81.415 <=USD>, after dropping to a two-year low of 81.365 earlier in the session. A move below 80.42 would mark its lowest since April 1995, according to Reuters data.

The dollar was flat against the yen at 118.50 yen , staying in the tight 118-119 yen range it has clung to since late last week.

The euro traded around 161.68 yen , up 0.15 percent on the day and not far from the record peak of 162.43 yen touched earlier in the month.


Analysts said that expectations on whether ECB rates will rise to 4.25 percent by year-end are now the key to determining how much further the euro can rise.

"The market has certainly been expecting June (ECB hike) for a long, long time. The concentration is on whether the ECB will go much above 4 percent," said Tom Vosa, head of market economics at nabCapital.

Data on Tuesday showed U.S. existing home sales posted their biggest monthly drop in 18 years and consumer sentiment hit an eight-month low, fuelling speculation that the Fed may soon cut interest rates from 5.25 percent.

Investors were looking for further insight on the monetary policy outlook, from U.S. durable goods data and the Fed's Beige Book later in the day, with analysts saying weak figures could put further pressure on the dollar.

"If the Beige Book shows regional business investment slowing, companies may start to pare back hiring intentions which would be dollar negative," said Turner at ING.

Figures on new home sales will also be scrutinised as markets try to assess ongoing softness in the housing sector and whether that will translate into economic weakness.

Data released earlier showed Japan's trade surplus hit a record high in March, but there was little market reaction to its surprisingly big jump from a year earlier. Click on [ID:nT6201]

Market participants expect the central bank to wait until the second half of the calendar year to lift its overnight call rate from 0.5 percent, after raising it in February.

Japan's Golden Week holidays next week were also keeping traders from placing significant positions in the yen.

© Reuters 2007. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of Reuters content, including by caching, framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Reuters. Reuters and the Reuters sphere logo are registered trademarks and trademarks of the Reuters group of companies around the world.


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