15 August 2006, 10:01  US dollar steady in Tokyo

The US dollar was steady against the yen and euro in early afternoon trading here, supported by demand by importers, but with most market players reluctant to trade before the release today and tomorrow of the latest US inflation figures, dealers said. In early Asian trading, the dollar had climbed above 116.70 yen on bargain-hunting and demand by importers, but once the initial round of purchases waned, the dollar ran out of upward momentum, dealers said. Market participants are on tenterhooks before the release later today of the US producer price index (PPI) for last month and the release tomorrow of the US consumer price index for last month. "It all depends on the US inflation figures, whether or not the dollar can breach the 117-yen mark decisively this week," said Etsuko Yamashita, senior currency analyst at Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp. Traders forecast that the year-on-year increase in the US headline PPI will have slipped to 4.6 pct last month from 4.9 pct in June -- which was the fastest rate of increase since January. The market is looking for new clues about if and when the US Federal Reserve will raise interest rates again, the US central bank having warned that inflation remains a concern. However, Yamashita doubts that the Fed will resume increasing interest rates anytime soon. "The Fed's reference in the statement last week on inflation -- 'some inflation risks remain' -- should be interpreted as meaning that the US central bank will take a wait-see stance for some months ahead to see how serious it will be," she said. She expects the Fed to leave interest rates unchanged at next month's policy-setting meeting. Toru Sasaki, chief strategist at JP Morgan Chase, said he expected the dollar to remain top-heavy this month against the yen. "Historical data show that the dollar is likely to fall in August [from a year before]. Moreover, many traders have built massive short yen positions, and I think they will opt to pocket profits soon," Sasaki said.

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