Stalemate in the United States over automatic government spending cuts due to take effect March 1 and an inconclusive election in Italy undermined the euro on Thursday, sending it back toward seven-week lows against the U.S. dollar.
The greenback also found support from upbeat economic data showing growth in the fourth quarter of last year, albeit miniscule, after a preliminary report of contraction. Consumer spending rose while weekly claims for jobless benefits declined, contributing to some of the dollar's strength.
In Washington, the hardening positions of U.S. President Barack Obama and opposition Republicans with just hours to go before $85 billion in across-the-board spending cuts kick in spurred investors — perhaps ironically — to seek the safety of the U.S. dollar.
"Given past experience, many investors have clung to hopes that Washington might strike an 11th-hour deal to avoid the big spending cuts or cobble together a plan in the coming weeks to blunt the impact on the economy," Joe Manimbo, senior market analyst at Western Union Business Solutions in Washington.