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FOREX-Euro at 5-week highs before ECB, U.S. data

Laurence Fletcher
Thursday, 5 Dec 2013 | 4:29 AM ET

* Investors await ECB inflation projections

* Yen rises on risk aversion as stocks fall

* Dollar weaker before Friday jobs data

LONDON, Dec 5 (Reuters) - The euro rose to trade near a five-week high against the dollar on Thursday as investors positioned for the European Central Bank's to keep interest rates unchanged with rising German yields lending it support.

While ECB policymakers have been at pains to keep their options open for more action to stimulate the economy - and effectively pump more euros into the market - the strength of German opposition seems to have pushed any action off into next year.

That, and data signals that may bring closer a cut in U.S. Federal Reserve bond-buying, has prodded German interest rates a touch higher, improving the return for the euro.

In early European trade on Thursday, the single currency rose 0.2 percent against the dollar to $1.3617, having hit $1.3640, its highest since late October.

"Nobody expects the ECB to do anything today," said Ulrich Leuchtmann, head of currency research at Commerzbank in Frankfurt.

"That's priced into the euro. But it's typical that the rest of the positions betting on the ECB not to do anything come into the market very close to the meeting."

Trading volumes in euro/dollar were more than double the average over the past month, according to data from the Reuters dealing platform.

There were also substantial risks out there in the day's events for the euro. While the ECB is expected to leave rates unchanged after last month's surprise cut to a record low of 0.25 percent, its projections will probably point to inflation remaining below target into 2015.

That would raise pressure on the bank to take action to avoid a slide closer to the sort of deflation, or at least very low price growth, that has debilitated Japan over the past decade.

Annual euro zone inflation last week inched up to 0.9 percent in November, giving the bank some room to maneuver.

Leuchtmann also said the euro's strength over recent months could be called into question if the ECB were to detail plans for another long-term refinancing operation (LTRO), giving banks access to cheap cash, though at least one senior policymaker has suggested that is not in the offing quite yet.

JOBS

Investors were also cautious ahead of the influential U.S. non-farm payrolls report on Friday, which is forecast to show further growth after the ADP National Employment Report showed U.S. private-sector hiring rose in November at the fastest clip in a year.

Any upside surprise in the payrolls report may lead to another round of speculation that the Federal Reserve might yet start scaling back its massive bond-buying stimulus programme this month, although most in the market expect it in March.

The yen gained as stock markets fell, with European shares losing ground for a fourth straight day.

Investors often flock to the yen in times of market stress.

The dollar slipped 0.4 percent to 101.93 yen, having earlier this week risen as high as 103.38. The dollar index fell 0.2 percent to 80.478.

Traders said the downtrend in the yen remained intact thanks to the Bank of Japan's ultra-loose monetary policy and expectations that it will provide even more stimulus next year.

"We think dollar/yen could hit 130 by the end of next year. A lot of people have been using the dollar as a funding currency, but if they switch to the yen this could push it down further," said Marshall Gittler, head of global FX strategy at IronFX Global.

"The BoJ is the only central bank that has guaranteed it won't tighten policy."