The US dollar has risen slightly this morning following contrasting indicators from either side of the Atlantic.

The pound stood at $1.7339 a short time ago, against $1.7406 earlier this morning.

Ben Bernanke, the newly installed chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank, gave the dollar a lift when he suggested that the policy of steadily increasing interest rates was set to continue.

Meanwhile, there is speculation that manufacturing and housing figures, due out later today, will suggest the fortunes of the US economy are continuing on an upward trend.

"Bernanke has reinforced the speculation that we'll get two more rate increases and that's opened the way for further dollar gains,'' Tim Fox of Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein told the Bloomberg news agency.

While the US is looking at tackling inflationary pressures, the UK could be in line for another reduction in interest rates following disappointing retail sales.

Figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) showed that sales growth slowed in the three months to January.

This confirms fears that the pre-Christmas boom has not been sustained, meaning that the Bank of England might consider cutting the base rate below 4.5 per cent.