Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Dollar Advances as Paulson Stresses Support for U.S. Currency

Dollar Advances as Paulson Stresses Support for U.S. Currency

July 22 (Bloomberg) -- The dollar rose the most against the euro in almost a week as Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson voiced support for the currency and the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia president said interest rates should be raised.

The greenback extended its gain after breaking $1.59, where orders to sell the euro were clustered, and increased further as crude oil prices fell, traders said. The Canadian dollar dropped against all of the other major currencies as a report showed domestic retail sales rose in May less than economists forecast.

``The feeling is that we're at a turning point and things are going to get better from here in the financial sector,'' said Brian Dolan, chief currency strategist at, a unit of online currency trading firm Gain Capital in Bedminster, New Jersey. Paulson's comments ``helped the market get over the mass hysteria about Fannie and Freddie.''

The dollar increased 0.4 percent to $1.5851 per euro at 10:28 a.m. in New York, from $1.5922 yesterday. It fell to $1.6038 on July 15, the weakest since the European currency's 1999 debut. The dollar advanced 0.4 percent to 106.86 yen, from 106.45. The yen was little changed at 169.40 per euro, compared with 169.48, after falling to a record of 169.91 yesterday.

South Africa's rand was the biggest gainer versus the dollar among the world's major currencies as gold prices increased and platinum advanced for the first time in seven days. South Africa produces about 10 percent of the world's gold and almost 80 percent of its platinum. The rand increased 0.4 percent to 7.5378 versus the dollar.

Canadian Dollar

Canada's dollar fell for the first time in three days against its U.S. counterpart, dropping 0.6 percent to C$1.0055 per U.S. dollar. Retail sales rose 0.4 percent in May to C$35.8 billion ($35.7 billion), Statistics Canada said today in Ottawa. The median forecast of 22 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News was for an increase of 0.6 percent.

The U.S. dollar strengthened today as Paulson said in a speech in New York that he's ``confident'' that lawmakers will pass the bill to ``boost confidence'' in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the largest sources of U.S. mortgage financing. He reiterated that a strong dollar is ``really very important.''

The dollar touched the record low earlier this month on concern Fannie and Freddie, which own or guarantee almost half of the $12 trillion in U.S. home loans outstanding, may fail to survive the housing slump.

Plosser on Rates

Philadelphia Fed President Charles Plosser said in a speech today in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, that the U.S. central bank should raise interest rates ``sooner rather than later.'' He argued against reductions in two Fed decisions this year.

Two-year U.S. Treasury yields rose 7 basis points, or 0.07 percentage point, to 2.66 percent. The yield advantage of comparable-maturity German bunds narrowed to 191 basis points.

``Plosser's hawkish comments pushed Treasury yields higher,'' contributing to the dollar's turnaround, said Matthew Kassel, director of proprietary trading at ING Financial Markets LLC in New York.

Futures traded on the Chicago Board of Trade showed a 7 percent chance the Fed will increase its 2 percent target rate for overnight lending between banks by a quarter-percentage point at its Aug. 5 meeting, compared with 40 percent odds a month ago.

The euro traded earlier near an all-time high versus the dollar as the Italian daily La Stampa reported that European Central Bank executive board member Lorenzo Bini Smaghi said the bank's main refinancing rate isn't ``exactly restrictive'' at 4.25 percent.

`Hawkish Noises'

``The ECB has continued to make hawkish noises, meaning the euro is going to be quite well-supported in the near term,'' said Ian Stannard, a London-based senior currency strategist at BNP Paribas SA. The dollar may still rebound to $1.50 by the end of the quarter, he said.

The euro may climb past 170 to an all-time high against the yen as the ECB raises rates a second time this year while the Bank of Japan leaves its benchmark rate unchanged at 0.5 percent, according to Commerzbank AG.

``The Japanese yen has to bear the consequences from having been unable to benefit from falling equity markets over the last weeks,'' currency strategists at the firm led by Frankfurt-based Ulrich Leuchtmann wrote in a note to clients. ``On the backdrop of low key rates, which are unlikely to see any changes in the near future, the general environment will remain difficult for the Japanese currency.''

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