RTTNews - The dollar firmed up in choppy trading versus other major currencies Wednesday, but most of its gains came prior to the release of the Federal Reserve's Beige Book, which said that economic conditions remained weak or deteriorated further during the period from mid-April through May.

After coming under pressure over the last two days versus the euro and sterling amid increased risk appetite, the dollar steadied as a rally in stocks faded, causing traders to seek safer ground in the world's reserve currency.

The dollar spent most of the afternoon between 1.3900 and 1.4000, staying away from a 5-month low of 1.4338 set a week ago. Versus the sterling, the dollar managed to hold its ground near 1.6350, having slipped more than 5 cents over the previous two sessions. 8 days ago, the buck dropped to a 6-month low of 1.6662, culminating a dismal one-month run to the downside.

Russian Central Bank rattled currency traders today by saying it may cut its U.S. treasury investments in favor of International Monetary Fund bonds.

Also Wednesday, official data showed that the German annual inflation rate reached the lowest level since 1987 on easing energy and food prices. French industrial production dropped faster than expected in April due to widespread contraction in all industrial sub-sectors, especially in the manufacture of petroleum products.

Out of the euro area, British manufacturing output recorded growth for the second straight month in April signaling that the economy is on the road to a gradual recovery.

The dollar crept higher versus the yen, rising back above 98 to challenge a 4-week high of 98.87, set Monday morning. Wednesday saw some key statistical data releases from major Asian economies. Official reports showed that orders for Japanese machinery dropped to the lowest level in more than two decades and in China, consumer prices fell for the fourth straight month.

Back in the US, the Fed's Beige Book, a compilation of anecdotal evidence on economic conditions from each of the twelve Federal Reserve districts, said manufacturing activity declined or remained at a low level across most districts.

However, the Fed said that several districts also reported that the outlook by manufacturers has improved somewhat.

With the value of exports falling by more than the value of imports in the month of April, the Commerce Department released a report Wednesday morning showing that the U.S. trade deficit for the month came in modestly wider than in March.

The report showed that the trade deficit widened to $29.2 billion in April from a revised $28.5 billion in March. Economists had expected the deficit to widen to $29.0 billion from the $27.6 billion originally reported for the previous month.

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