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Dollar Holds near 3-Week High after U.S. Retail Sales Boost

LONDON (Reuters) - The dollar held near three-week highs on Friday after better-than-expected retail sales numbers in the United States boosted bets on the strength of the U.S. economy and earlier monetary policy tightening.

By 0720 GMT, the euro had pulled itself into positive territory but at $1.1783 remained close to a three-week low.

U.S. retail sales unexpectedly increased in August, rising 0.7% from the previous month despite expectations of a 0.8% fall, while a business sentiment survey by the Philadelphia Fed also showed a big improvement.

The figures helped to curb cautious views on the U.S. economy after a tame consumer inflation reading and soft job growth data earlier this month, and revived expectations for an early tapering of its asset purchases by the Federal Reserve.

The more bullish mood faces another test later on Friday with the release of the University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment index, which surprised many investors last month by tumbling to a decade-low due to smaller income gains and higher inflation.

The dollar index stood at 92.799 down slightly on the session but near Thursday’s three-week high of 92.965.

Currency markets were generally quiet on Friday and traders were reluctant to put on new big positions ahead of a clutch of important central bank meetings next week including from the Fed, the Bank of Japan and the Bank of England.

“Despite the ongoing China Evergrande saga plus views from many that equities are due a correction, risk sentiment remains surprisingly supported. Expect another quiet FX trading session before a busy week of central bank meetings,” ING analysts said.

The Swiss franc nursed its losses after hitting a five-month low versus the dollar of 0.9280 francs.

The dollar rose to 109.84 yen, having gained 0.34% on Thursday to rise off Wednesday’s six-week low of 109.11.

The yen has so far shown only a limited reaction to the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s (LDP) leadership race, which will formally kick off on Friday ahead of a Sept. 29 vote. The LDP’s parliamentary dominance means the party’s new leader will become prime minister.

“The world’s major macro players are not expecting big policy shifts. A lack of moves in the yen is a testament to that,” said Hiromichi Shirakawa, vice chairman and chief economist for Credit Suisse in Japan.

The Chinese yuan recovered slightly and was last up 0.1% after Thursday’s 0.4% fall.

The offshore yuan traded at 6.447 to the dollar, pressured by growing worries about China’s real estate sector as investors fear property giant China Evergrande could default on its coupon payment next week.

Still, on a trade-weighted basis, the yuan stood near its highest level in five years, both in the onshore and offshore market.

The British pound traded 0.1% higher at $1.38.

Additional reporting by Hideyuki Sano in Tokyo; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman

Source: Reuters

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