Dollar gains some ground; US home sales pick up

NEW YORK, March 24, 2008 (AFP) – The dollar regained some strength Monday after an industry survey showed a surprise rebound in existing US home sales in February following six straight months of decline. Traders said the better-than-expected sales of existing homes, which rose 2.9 percent to an annual rate of 5.03 million units according to the National Association of Realtors, raised hopes the deep US housing market slump could be ebbing.

The single European currency was swapping hands at 1.5422 dollars around 2100 GMT, down slightly from 1.5443 dollars in New York late on Thursday.

Against the Japanese currency, the dollar had meanwhile risen to 100.73 yen from 99.63 yen on Thursday prior to the extended Easter holiday weekend.

Despite the dollar’s marginal gains it has fallen heavily against most major currencies in recent months amid fears of slowing US economic growth. A growing number of economists say the housing slump, a related credit crisis and high oil prices have already pushed the economy into a recession.

The home sales report helped support sentiment somewhat Monday, analysts said.

Existing home sales increased to an annual rate of 5.03 million units, well ahead of