US DOLLAR HOLDING AHEAD OF PARIS TALKS

US DOLLAR HOLDING AHEAD OF PARIS TALKS

The U.S. dollar held to a relatively narrow range against major currencies Wednesday, ahead of Friday's U.S. employment data and Saturday's meeting in Paris of the Group of 7 industrial nations.

Currency traders said they don't expect the Group of 7 to announce any major agreement to stabilize exchange rates and prop up the yen, but they were squaring positions so as not to be at risk to any surprise developments.Friday's job data for March are expected to show an increase of between 130,000 and 170,000 in non-farm payrolls, economists said. That would represent slower job growth than in January and February, when payroll gains averaged 350,000.

Census workers will add about 50,000 to March payrolls, but a decline in construction employment and slower growth in the service sector could hold back the job total.

"The employment numbers will be more important to the bond market than to the foreign exchange market," said Bill Jansen, currency trader at Discount Corp. of New York.

"The short-term effect will be muted," he added, noting that traders will be reluctant to increase their exposure ahead of the crucial weekend talks in Paris.

Mr. Jansen predicted the Group of 7 will issue a communique similar to the one that came at the end of last September's meeting saying that a further rise in the dollar's value could be detrimental to long-run economic fundamentals.

"The yen was at 145 to the dollar then; now it's 158," he noted.

Earl Johnson, foreign exchange trader at Harris Trust & Savings Bank in Chicago, said Wednesday's currency market was "in a holding pattern."

The yen will hold to the 158-160 range against the dollar until the weekend, Mr. Johnson said. He predicted that "some modest yen selling" will develop next Monday because there is unlikely to be any initiative to support the yen coming out of the Group of 7 meeting.

"The United States is satisfied with the dollar's current level, and Germany is preoccupied with unification," Harris Trust's Mr. Johnson said. ''There is not enough unity in the Group of 7 now to come up with any kind of currency-stabilization package," he added.

The U.K. pound, as well as the Canadian and Australian dollars, rose Wednesday on their "high-yield allure," Discount Corp.'s Mr. Jansen said, referring to the relatively high level of interest rates in those countries.