Institutions push up dollar despite strong US growth

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The Independent Online
American institutional investors pushed the dollar and government bond prices sharply higher yesterday despite figures showing that the US economy grew unexpectedly strongly in the third quarter.

London share prices also surged, but with little trade taking place. The FT-SE index of 100 top London stocks rose 54.2 points to close at 3,083.8, its biggest one-day leap since early August.

National output in the US grew at an annual rate of 3.4 per cent in the third quarter, compared with forecasts of 2.8 per cent, according to the Commerce Department. More than half this was due to rising consumer spending. The rise in companies' stocks of unsold goods was the largest for a decade while government spending posted its biggest increase for nearly five years.

But fears that the Federal Reserve would respond to rapid growth with a big jump in interest rates were ameliorated by good news on inflation.

The implicit price deflator - the broadest measure of inflation in the US economy - rose at an annual 1.6 per cent in the third quarter, well below the 2.9 per cent analysts had expected. Separate figures showed that import prices fell by 0.8 per cent in September.

But Wall Street analysts are still looking for another rise in US interest rates next month.

'The important thing is that the report confirms the economy is continuing to grow above trend,' said Michael Strauss, chief economist at Yamaichi International (America).

The beleaguered dollar jumped by 1.61 pfennigs against the German mark in London, to close at DM1.5132. It rose by Y0.59 to Y97.46, while the pound shed nearly two cents to close at dollars 1.6185. Earlier in the week the dollar fell to a post-war low against the yen and a two-year low against the mark.

The mark had been strong in early trading after Helmut Schieber, a member of the Bundesbank's policy-making council, said he could see circumstances in which a rise in German interest rates might be necessary.

Trading in the sterling futures market was subdued ahead of next week's Inflation Report from the Bank of England and the monthly meeting between the Governor and the Chancellor of the Exchequer.