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Monday July 16, 2007 - 22:21:22 GMT
Reuters - www.reuters.com

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FOREX NEWS-Dollar slips ahead of inflation data, Bernanke

FOREX-Dollar slips ahead of inflation data, Bernanke
Mon Jul 16, 2007 4:14PM EDT

(Updates prices, adds comments)

By Steven C. Johnson

NEW YORK, July 16 (Reuters) - The dollar fell to multiyear lows against higher-yielding currencies on Monday and remained near a record low versus the euro as investors braced for data expected to show declines in home construction and inflation.

Weakness in those reports would provide fresh incentives for dollar bears, who punished the greenback last week as a deepening housing slump and a decline in retail sales further dented the case for higher U.S. interest rates this year.

"The dollar still seems to be trading off last week's toxic fumes," said Marc Chandler, senior currency strategist at Brown Brothers Harriman, referring to soft retail sales and ratings downgrades to billions of dollars in risky mortgage debt.

Late afternoon, the euro was changing hands at $1.3780 , near a record peak of $1.3813 hit Friday, while sterling hit a 26-year peak at $2.0405 before easing to $2.0370, still up 0.1 percent from late Friday.

Strong inflation data pushed the New Zealand dollar to its highest level against the greenback since being floated in 1985, and the Australian dollar hit an 18-year peak .

The dollar was up 0.1 percent at 121.78 yen , recovering earlier losses after earthquakes in northwestern Japan sparked some yen selling. For details, see [ID:nT148237].

Interest rates in New Zealand, Australia and the UK offer investors higher returns than benchmark U.S. rates, which most market players expect to stay at 5.25 percent this year.

Some analysts say weakness in the housing sector combined with slowing inflation may even lead the Federal Reserve to reduce benchmark U.S. overnight interest rates early next year.

Markets are currently pricing in about a one-in-six chance that the Fed will cut rates by a quarter percentage point in 2007.

That leaves traders waiting for consumer price and housing construction data and semi-annual testimony from Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke -- all due on Wednesday -- for their next cue.

Investors will look for any signs of concern from Bernanke about trouble in the U.S. subprime mortgage market or a shift in the Fed's focus from the core inflation rate to the higher headline figure, which includes energy and food costs.

Bernanke "is probably going to stand by his view on inflation, but his comments on the subprime meltdown may move the markets," said Mark Meadows, a currency strategist at Tempus Consulting in Washington. "In the end, what we are likely to get is a reminder that rates here are lower and that the Fed may actually be forced to cut them."

Some market participants, though, have warned that the dollar's recent slide may have left the currency poised for a short-term correction.

Strategists at CitiFX wrote in a note to clients that they they cut short dollar exposure on Monday for fear "the market could get caught out by a period of consolidation and correction in favor of the dollar."

"This in no way changes our medium term bearish dollar outlook but does entice us to believe that patience will be rewarded with better entry levels," they wrote.

© Reuters 2006. 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.

Reuters journalists are subject to the Reuters Editorial Handbook which requires fair presentation and disclosure of relevant interests.


 

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