FOREX-Dollar climbs to two-week peaks on upbeat U.S. data
* U.S. GDP, initial jobless claims data support Fed taper in September
* Dollar rises vs yen as Syria tension eases
* Emerging currency relief also seen supporting case for Fed tapering
NEW YORK, Aug 29 (Reuters) - The dollar rose to two-week highs on Thursday, on track for its largest daily gain against the euro in more than four months, after robust U.S. economic data suggested the world's largest economy was turning a corner. The reports bolstered expectations the Federal Reserve could from next month begin scaling back its massive asset-buying plan, a view that had been undermined of late by a series of weak U.S. housing numbers. But data on Thursday showed that the U.S. economy accelerated in the second quarter more quickly than expected, growing 2.5 percent in the April-June period, thanks to a surge in exports. "This is a good report for those who expect the Fed to taper in September," said Vassili Serebriakov, currency strategist at BNP Paribas in New York. "One of the key concerns that the Fed has voiced recently has been the dichotomy between firm employment and soft GDP growth. This should ease some of those concerns," he said. Still, Serebriakov doubted that the reports would sway the minds of market participants who believe the Fed will not begin to scale back its stimulus in September. BNP Paribas, for one, has long held the view that the Fed will start winding down its asset purchases in December, noting that the U.S. economy is not yet at the point that would justify a tapering, he added. Bob Lynch, head of G10 FX strategy at HSBC in New York, said he is not sure whether or not the second-quarter GDP data will play a major role in the Fed's policy deliberations. "Much of the 'later this year' tapering guidance from Fed Chairman Bernanke and other Fed officials is predicated on an expected rebound in growth in the second half of this year," Lynch said. "So in that regard, the revised Q2 GDP data are more backward-looking and the upcoming growth numbers - and the Fed's expectations - should play the bigger role in the policy debate," he added. The dollar was last 0.8 percent higher against a basket of currencies at 82.054, after hitting a high of 82.067, the highest since Aug. 5. Against the safe-haven Japanese yen , the greenback traded up 0.9 percent at 98.45 yen. The euro, meanwhile, plunged 0.9 percent against the dollar to $1.3221, on pace for its worst daily performance since mid-April. It earlier touched a low of $1.3218, a two-week trough. The greenback was also supported by a fall in U.S. jobless claims to a seasonally-adjusted 331,000. Market sentiment was still cautious, but prospects of an imminent Western attack on Syria weakened, given opposition in Britain and among U.S. lawmakers. U.S. Treasury yields rose on Thursday, raising the dollar's appeal, after having fallen in recent days as investors sought refuge in low-risk government debt. Some said reduced tension in emerging markets also supported the U.S. currency as it reinforced bets the Fed would crimp monetary stimulus soon. "A slight easing of the tensions in Syria and emerging markets, has helped the dollar," said Simon Derrick head of currency research at Bank of New York Mellon. "Over the last few weeks tensions in emerging markets were seen as keeping pressure on the Fed to delay tapering which is dollar negative. With emerging markets now doing a little better, the dollar is higher." Analysts at Morgan Stanley expect the dollar to regain support against major currencies "as risk aversion eases, allowing some stabilization in risky asset markets and potentially providing some relief to emerging currencies." Emerging markets, the first to be hit by outflows of funds as investors braced for an eventual end to the Fed's monetary stimulus, have experienced more turbulence as the Syria crisis makes investors even more risk-averse. While a debt auction in Italy was relatively successful, borrowing costs for a new five-year bond rose as investors remained wary about the coalition government's stability, which weighed on the euro. The euro's recent resilience is likely running out of steam, according to the options market.