Sun, Dec 26, 2004 - Page 10 News List

Euro hits record high against dollar

AFP , LONDON

The euro hit a new record on Friday against the unravelling US dollar, surging to US$1.3549, with some analysts seeing US$1.40 as a potential trigger level for European Central Bank intervention.

The single European currency jumped to its new record at mid-morning before slipping back to US$1.3529, against US$1.3506 late Thursday in New York.

Against the yen the US dollar was trading at ¥103.54, down from ¥103.61 on Thursday.

Trading was quiet ahead of the Christmas holiday.

"The euro/dollar rate has moved to a new life-time high as underlying lack of enthusiasm for the dollar remains firmly intact," said Daragh Maher, currency analyst at CALYON.

After reaching record lows against the euro Thursday, the dollar plunged still further on Friday after comments by Dutch Finance Minister Gerrit Zalm that the euro continued to trade within an acceptable range against the US currency.

In an interview with the French newspaper La Croix, Zalm, whose country currently chairs the EU presidency, said: "If one remem-bers that the euro, when launched, was worth about US$1.20, the rise of the European currency is no more than 10 percent. So the euro is moving within a range which is still acceptable."

Such complacency contrasts sharply with the rather alarmist tone of remarks made by French Finance Minister Herve Gaymard on Thursday.

Speaking on a visit to a General Motors factory in Strasbourg, Gaymard warned of a global economic catastrophe if the US, Europe and Asia did not work together to stem the dollar's decline.

"If we stay in the current situation, it's possible to imagine a catastrophic situation at world level, for the Europeans who have an over-valued currency, for the Asians who hold assets in dollars and for the Americans because long-term interest rates will rise," the minister said.

While officials at the European Central Bank (ECB) have described recent currency market volatility as "unwelcome," they have shown little inclination to take concrete action to stem the rise of the euro, which reduces the competitiveness of eurozone exports and -- according to some political leaders -- threatens regional growth.

The euro in late trade was changing hands at US$1.3529 against US$1.3506 late Thursday in New York, ¥140.13 (¥139.97), £0.7033 (¥0.7022) and 1.5460 Swiss francs (SF1.5446).

The dollar stood at ¥103.54 (103.61) and SF1.1421 (SF1.1439).

The pound was at US$1.9251 (US$1.9225), ¥199.31 (¥199.22) and SF2.1983 (SF2.1993).

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