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Dollar tumbles on US data, Fed officials

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The U.S. dollar was on track for its biggest daily decline against a basket of major currencies in nearly two weeks on Thursday after comments from Federal Reserve officials and weak U.S. data pushed out expectations for the first Fed rate hike.

Atlanta Federal Reserve Bank President Dennis Lockhart, whose comments were closely-watched since he is a voting member of the Fed's rate-setting committee this year, said the Fed's interest rate plans were being complicated by factors including a "murky" run of first-quarter data.

Comments from Cleveland Fed President Loretta Mester and Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren also struck dovish notes, with Rosengren saying the Fed should wait longer before hiking.

The dollar was pressured earlier in the session after data showed weaker-than-expected U.S. housing starts for March and a surprise rise in the number of people seeking unemployment aid last week.


"The combination of weak data and dovish Fed speakers is leading to a sell-off the dollar," said Mark McCormick, currency strategist, at Credit Agricole in New York. "What we're seeing here is not much scope for a June hike."

A rate hike is expected to boost the dollar by driving investment flows into the United States.

The dollar fell over 1 percent against the euro and Swiss franc. The euro hit a more than one-week high against the dollar of $1.08180, while the dollar slid to its lowest level against the Swiss franc in one and a half weeks of 0.95400 franc.

The Australian dollar hit a fresh nearly three-week high against the dollar of $0.7823 in the wake of data showing employment sped past expectations in March while jobs created in February were revised up sharply.

The data helped the Aussie dollar since it "certainly diminishes the risk of a rate cut" from the Reserve Bank of Australia, said Kathy Lien, managing director at BK Asset Management in New York.

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The euro was last up 0.9 percent against the dollar at $1.07800. The dollar was last down 0.93 percent against the franc at 0.95550 franc. The dollar was last down 0.13 percent against the yen at 118.980 yen.

The dollar index, which measures the greenback against a basket of six major currencies, was last down 0.78 percent at 97.553. It was set for its biggest daily fall since April 3.