By Min Zeng
Sept. 29 (Bloomberg) -- The dollar fell to the lowest against the euro since the 13-nation currency's debut in 1999 as slowing growth and inflation increased speculation that the Federal Reserve will cut interest rates a second time this year.
The U.S. currency depreciated to an all-time low versus a basket of six of its major peers and posted the biggest monthly drop against the euro in almost four years. The dollar may decline further next week before a government report economists expect to show the U.S. unemployment rate rose in September to 4.7 percent, the highest in more than a year.
``Continued dollar weakness probably is still in the cards,'' said Ihab Salib, who helps oversee $3 billion in international bonds in Pittsburgh at Federated Investments Inc. ``I don't expect a meltdown in the dollar. It will be a moderate depreciation.''
The dollar fell 4.5 percent to $1.4267 per euro in September, reaching the record low of $1.4278 yesterday. It was the biggest monthly decline since December 2003. The U.S. currency reached all-time lows in each of the past seven trading days. The dollar posted a 5.1 percent drop in the third quarter, the biggest since the second quarter of 2006.
The New York Board of Trade's dollar index reached 77.66 yesterday, the weakest since the gauge began in 1973. The Fed's trade-weighted index comparing the dollar with major currencies dropped on Sept. 25 to the lowest since its inception in 1971.
Norway's krone was the biggest gainer this quarter, rising 9.4 percent against the dollar, while New Zealand's dollar lost the most, falling 1.9 percent. The dollar declined 6.8 percent to 114.81 yen over the same period.
U.S. Dollar Weakness
The U.S. dollar weakened against all of the 16 most actively traded currencies this month, falling 1.5 percent against the pound and 0.8 percent versus the yen. For the year, the dollar has lost 7.5 percent against the euro, 4.3 percent against the pound and 3.6 percent versus the yen.
The yen fell against all the major currencies except the dollar this month as the Fed's half-percentage-point rate cut on Sept. 18 encouraged carry-trade investors to resume borrowing in Japan to buy higher-yielding assets elsewhere. The yen lost 3.7 percent to 163.79 per euro, declining 7.1 percent against the Australian dollar and 6.6 percent versus the New Zealand dollar.
Japan's currency rallied on Aug. 17 to the highest against the dollar since June 2006 as higher borrowing costs related to subprime-mortgage losses led investors to avoid higher-yielding assets. The yen rose this quarter against all of the 16 most actively traded currencies except Norway's krone.
Consumer Confidence Plunges
Reports this week showed consumer confidence fell to almost a two-year low while new-home sales sank to the lowest in seven years. The price gauge tied to spending patterns and excluding food and energy costs, the Fed's preferred measure, rose 1.8 percent from August 2006, the smallest annual gain since February 2004.
Former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan said yesterday in an interview with BBC Radio 4 that the chance of a U.S. recession is higher now than a few months ago.
The Labor Department will report on Oct. 5 that the unemployment rate rose to 4.7 percent this month from 4.6 percent a month earlier, according to the median forecast of 64 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News.
Futures contracts showed 86 percent odds yesterday that the central bank will cut its target to 4.5 percent at its next meeting Oct. 31, compared with a 14 percent likelihood a month ago.
Signs of Inflation
The euro also benefited this week as signs of rising inflation in Europe may increase speculation that the European Central Bank will boost interest rates before year-end.
Germany's inflation rate, measured using a harmonized European Union method, accelerated to 2.7 percent from 2 percent in August, the Federal Statistics Office said Sept. 27. That's the most since June 2001.
M3 money supply, which the ECB uses to measure future inflation, grew 11.6 percent from a year earlier after increasing 11.7 percent in July, the central bank said Sept. 27.
``This will get ECB concerned, and the expectation of an ECB ease was squashed,'' said Robert Sinche, head of global currency strategy in New York at Bank of America Corp. ``The euro-dollar move is a combination of dollar weakness and euro strength.''
The ECB is expected to keep its target rate at 4 percent when its board meets on Oct. 4, according to a Bloomberg survey. The Bank of England is expected to hold its rate at 5.75 percent the same day.
ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet yesterday told Dutch television it's ``too early'' to decide whether financial-market turmoil will hurt economic growth in the euro region.
The Euribor futures for delivery in December rose to 4.61 percent yesterday from 4.49 percent a week ago. The futures dropped to as low as 4.24 percent on Aug. 21 during the global credit crisis.
Last Updated: September 29, 2007 08:40 EDT