FOREX-Dollar edges off 15-mth lows; stg falls on Fitch

Tue Nov 10, 2009 3:58am EST

* Dollar edges off 15-mth lows, but still under pressure

* Pound falls after Fitch warns on UK rating

* German ZEW eyed at 1000 GMT

(Updates prices; changes byline, dateline; previous TOKYO)

By Jessica Mortimer

LONDON, Nov 10 (Reuters) - The dollar edged up on Tuesday, reversing some of its recent losses but staying close to a 15-month low against a currency basket, while sterling fell sharply after a warning on the UK from ratings agency Fitch.

Fitch Ratings said that of the four major economies with AAA status, the UK was the most at risk, sending the pound down sharply to shed as much as 1 percent on the day against the dollar. [ID:nT286946]

David Riley, co-head of global sovereign ratings at Fitch, said if there was another significant fiscal stimulus package in Britain its rating would be at risk.

"The Fitch news was a reminder of the longer-term issues facing the UK," said Lutz Karpowitz, currency strategist at Commerzbank in Frankfurt.

Regarding other major currencies, he said the market trend was still one of dollar weakness, but that dollar short positions were looking "stretched" and the euro "lacks momentum" above the $1.50 level.

Expectations that U.S. interest rates are likely to stay near zero for a while have encouraged investors to use the dollar to fund carry trades in higher-yielding assets, particularly at times when equity markets are rallying.

The pound slipped as far as $1.6600 GBP=D4, well below a three-month high of $1.6844 reached on Monday, and fell more than 0.5 percent on the day to beyond 90.00 pence per euro EURGBP=D4.

By 0848 GMT, it was down 0.6 percent against the dollar at $1.6653, while the euro was up 0.6 percent at 89.97 pence.

An index of the dollar's performance against six major currencies edged up 0.1 percent to 75.111 .DXY, having dropped about 1 percent the previous day to as low as 74.93, its weakest since August 2008. It was the biggest one-day fall since late July.

The euro edged down 0.1 percent to $1.4986 EUR=, after gaining about 1 percent on Monday and rising above $1.50 for the first time since late October, nearing its 2009 high of $1.5064.

Traders said a number of option strikes were lurking around the $1.5025 level.

The higher-yielding Australian dollar AUD=D4 fell 0.2 percent to $0.9277. The currency had earlier rallied as high as $0.9324 after strong Australian business confidence data [ID:nSYU009020] though it stopped just shy of a 15-month high of $0.9330.

"With relatively solid stocks and higher commodity prices, and major events out of the way, market sentiment has shown a sense of relief," said Mitsuru Sahara, chief manager of currency derivatives trading at Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ.

"The dollar is weakening broadly at a gradual pace but market volatility is low and there is no climate of returning to crisis," he said.

There is little in the way of major data due on Tuesday, though the German ZEW economic sentiment indicator will be eyed at 1000 GMT. ECON

A host of officials from the Federal Reserve are also scheduled to speak in the coming hours and the market will watch what they say regarding the outlook for interest rates and the eventual withdrawal of easy monetary policy measures.

The speakers include Dennis Lockhart, Janet Yellen and Eric Rosengren. [MI/DIARY]

Elsewhere, the yen gained broadly, with traders noting some profit-taking on the euro and other currencies against the Japanese currency before a U.S. market holiday on Wednesday.

The euro fell 0.3 percent to 134.56 yen EURJPY=R while the dollar also eased 0.2 percent to 89.78 yen JPY=. (Additional reporting by Kaori Kaneko in Tokyo; Editing by Andy Bruce)

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