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Wednesday June 6, 2007 - 10:40:16 GMT
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FOREX NEWS-Euro steady before ECB decision, high yielders up

FOREX-Euro steady before ECB decision, high yielders up
Wed Jun 6, 2007 6:08 AM ET

(Changes byline, adds quotes, updates prices)

By Simon Falush

LONDON, June 6 (Reuters) - The euro held steady against the dollar on Wednesday as markets anticipated a European Central Bank interest rate hike, with the focus on any hints ECB president Jean-Claude Trichet might give on further increases.

Higher-yielding currencies continued to perform strongly, with the Australian dollar surging to a 17-year peak against the U.S. dollar after robust first-quarter growth data suggested Australian rates could rise further .

This helped to lift the New Zealand dollar to its strongest level since being floated in 1985.

Markets widely expect the ECB to lift borrowing costs by 25 basis points to 4.0 percent at 1145 GMT, leaving investors focusing firmly on Trichet's news conference for further clues on how many more hikes are in the offing this year.

"The market is expecting (Trichet) to be hawkish," said Steven Pearson, chief currency strategist at Halifax Bank of Scotland Treasury Services.

"However, three rate hikes by next year are priced in, so the only factor that could affect the euro is if he deviates from market expectations that he will say rates are accommodative."

Hawkish expectations on euro zone rates were also reflected in the bond market, with benchmark 10-yields near 4-1/2 year highs of 4.5 percent.

By 0930 GMT, the euro was steady at $1.3522 , bouncing back from an eight-week low of $1.3391 hit last week and almost a cent and a half from its record high above $1.3682 in April.

The dollar edged lower to 121.26 yen , and struggled to overcome a heavy array of sell orders near 122 yen after reaching a four-month high of 122.14 yen last week.

The euro was also lower versus the yen at 164.60 yen , having hit a peak of 164.61 yen on Tuesday.


The dollar has come under broad pressure despite a raft of upbeat economic data reducing expectations that the Federal Reserve will cut rates from the current 5.25 percent later in the year.

Cleveland Fed President Sandra Pianalto said U.S. inflation hovering around 3 percent since 2005 is too high for comfort in the longer term.

Comments from Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke on Tuesday that the U.S. housing market will continue to be a drag on growth knocked the dollar lower in spite of data showing U.S. service sector activity picking up to a 13-month high.

The Australian dollar, meanwhile, jumped to a 17-year high of US$0.8439 after data showed the country's economy expanded at a 1.6 percent clip in the January-March quarter from the previous quarter, easily surpassing forecasts.

Earlier, the Reserve Bank of Australia kept rates on hold at 6.25 percent as expected, but the country's strong economy is keeping alive the possibility of higher rates ahead.

The Australian dollar also rose to its highest versus the yen since April 1992 .

"The data has lifted the Aussie and we see the currency making more gains in the short-term although it is too early to suggest yet that the GDP data implies a greater risk of tighter monetary policy," said Bear Stearns in a note to clients.

"The real clue here will come from Q2 CPI data which is not due until next month."

High-yielding currencies including sterling have scaled successive multi-year peaks against the yen as investors continue their search for higher yield.

The New Zealand dollar rose above $0.7550 for the first time in 22 years, and remained close to the 17-year peak against the yen struck the previous session.

Investors will also keep an eye on a summit meeting of the Group of Eight nations in Germany that begins later in the day to see if officials from the world's richest nations will comment on issues pertaining to monetary policy or currency movements.

© 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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