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The euro climbed to almost four- month highs versus the dollar and yen after European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet said the ECB may raise interest rates next month to counter accelerating inflation.
“Strong vigilance is warranted,” Trichet told reporters in Frankfurt after the central bank left its main refinancing rate at 1 percent.
“The market is responding to Trichet’s comments aggressively,” said Neil Jones, head of European hedge-fund sales at Mizuho Corporate Bank Ltd. in London. “He’s very hawkish, no doubt about it. This is as close as he can go without actually raising rates.”
An “increase of interest rates in the next meeting is possible,” Trichet said, adding that any increase would not necessarily be the start of a “series” of moves.
Rising oil prices, which surged over $100 a barrel last week, and faster economic growth are fanning inflation which has already breached the ECB’s 2 percent limit for three straight months. At the same time, officials must weigh any rate increase against the risk it will exacerbate Europe’s sovereign debt crisis by tightening policy too soon.
The dollar slumped versus the euro even after a report showed initial jobless claims in the U.S. unexpectedly declined last week to the lowest level since May 2008.
Applications for unemployment benefits decreased by 20,000 to 368,000 in the week ended Feb. 26, Labor Department figures showed. Economists forecast claims would climb to 395,000. The total number of people receiving unemployment insurance fell to the lowest level since October 2008.
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