Friday, April 13, 2007

Euro hits new two-year high against dollar

Wholesale prices up 1 percent in March

2 hours, 54 minutes ago

The euro surged on Friday to 1.3534 dollars, the highest level since January 3, 2005, on expectations of rising eurozone interest rates.

They added that the foreign exchange market was jittery ahead of a meeting of the Group of Seven (G7) financial chiefs in Washington on Friday, when the health of the global economy and the weakness of the yen are expected to be in focus.

The single currency later stood at 1.3521 dollars, compared with 1.3480 dollars in New York late on Thursday. The euro dipped to 160.06 yen after striking an overnight record of 160.87 against the Japanese unit.

The dollar meanwhile fell to 118.38 yen compared with 119.14 late on Thursday.

"The dollar has been depressed against the euro by the comments of (ECB) President (Jean-Claude) Trichet yesterday (Thursday) following the monetary policy meeting of the European Central Bank," said Paul Chertkow, head of global currency research at The Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi in London.

The euro had breached 1.35 dollars on Thursday after the ECB signalled that it was ready to raise eurozone borrowing costs again in June.

Trichet sent a clear signal that the bank was set to raise its key interest rates -- already at a five-and-a-half-year high -- still further in June, after holding rates at 3.75 percent on Thursday.

"Characterising monetary policy as still accommodative, he (Trichet) underpinned the expectation of another 0.25 point increase in the refinancing rate in the eurozone before mid-year," Chertkow added.

The euro has been buoyed in recent weeks by favourable interest rate differentials, analysts said.

In contrast with the ECB, the US Federal Reserve appeared to open the door to a cut in American borrowing costs last month as it kept rates unchanged at 5.25 percent.

Market players were cautious on Friday ahead of the G7 meeting amid speculation that the yen could become a topic of discussion, if only behind closed doors.

The weakening Japanese yen is causing consternation in European capitals, where finance chiefs are worried that the yen-euro exchange rate is penalising eurozone exporters.

"But the chances of strong remarks on a weak yen are very slim this time," said Tokyo-based Commerzbank analyst Ryohei Muramatsu.

"And since foreign exchange rates are stable in an orderly manner right now, there is no need for the G7 to say anything that may possibly disturb the market," he said.

Ahead of the G7 talks, the dollar could face further selling pressure from new data in the United States, with the latest US trade balance data and producer price inflation numbers due later Friday.

The euro was changing hands at 1.3521 dollars, against 1.3480 dollars late on Thursday, 160.06 yen (160.62), 0.6811 pounds (0.6812) and 1.6364 Swiss francs (1.6396).

The dollar stood at 118.38 yen (119.14) and 1.2101 Swiss francs (1.2167).

The pound was being traded at 1.9860 dollars (1.9785).

On the London Bullion Market, the price of gold pulled back to 677.25 dollars per ounce, from 678.50 dollars late on Thursday.

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