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Dollar hits 4-week high as Syria buoys safe-haven appeal

John Lund | Photographer's Choice | Getty Images

The U.S. dollar reached a four-week peak against a basket of major currencies on Friday as investors sought its safe-haven status on the possibility of a U.S. military strike on Syria.

The dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of six major currencies, was up 0.1 percent at 82.064, after earlier hitting a four-week high of 82.263 as soft euro zone data hurt the euro and amid worries about Syria.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry made a broad case for limited U.S. military action against Syria for its alleged use of chemical weapons, saying it could not go unpunished for such a "crime against humanity."

"Today's combination of risk aversion (on Syria) and expectations of Fed tapering next month suggest we will have continued dollar strength next week," said Camilla Sutton, chief currency strategist at Scotiabank in Toronto.

"Next week should be quiet leading up to Friday's nonfarm payrolls report, but the technicals and fundamentals suggest we have entered a new period of U.S. dollar strength," she said.

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A team of U.N. investigators has finished gathering samples and evidence in Syria related to a the suspected chemical weapons attack that killed hundreds of people in suburbs near Damascus last week and is packing up to leave, a U.N. spokesman said on Friday.

A U.S. intelligence report disclosed that there was "high confidence" that Syrian forces had used chemical weapons multiple times in the last year, including the Aug. 21 attack outside Damascus.

The dollar index was up 0.9 percent on the week, its third straight weekly gain. After falling for two straight months, the dollar index gained 0.8 percent in August.

Looking ahead, next Friday's nonfarm payrolls report should be the highlight of the week since the state of the jobs market is key to Federal Reserve policy. A strong number should affirm expectations that the Fed will pull back on its monetary stimulus when it meets later in the month.

U.S. financial markets will be closed on Monday in observance of the U.S. Labor Day holiday.

The euro was down 0.2 percent at $1.3213 after earlier touching a five-week low of $1.3172. The currency slipped from highs after data showed benign inflation and elevated unemployment at 12.1 percent.

The dollar eased 0.2 percent versus the yen to 98.14 yen, off an intraday high of 98.47 yen. Traders said dollar-selling by Japanese exporters at month-end helped the yen.

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