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FOREX-Dollar at one-week high after U.S. GDP; euro hits the skids

Ian Chua and Hideyuki Sano
Thursday, 30 Jan 2014 | 10:35 PM ET

* Dollar back in favour after solid U.S. GDP

* U.S. economy grew at 3.2 pct annualised rate in Q4

* Downside surprise for soft EZ inflation rises after German data

* Easing emerging market stress helps Aussie dollar bounce

* Kiwi falls after NZ central bank says wants to see it lower

SYDNEY/TOKYO, Jan 31 (Reuters) - The U.S. dollar traded at a one-week high against a basket of major currencies early on Friday, having been swept higher as investors took aim at the euro in a volatile end to a choppy month gripped by concerns over emerging economies.

The greenback was also supported after solid U.S. October-December growth numbers revived hopes that the global economy could, on the whole, take troubles from emerging markets in its stride.

"I think the impact of emerging markets on G10 currencies will diminish and the market's focus will return to the strength of the U.S. economy," said Koichi Takamatsu, head of forex trading at Nomura Securities in Tokyo.

The dollar index rose as far as 81.135 on Thursday. It last stood at 81.055, little changed on the day but up 1.3 percent so far this month. Volumes were light with large parts of Asia on holiday for the Lunar New Year.

U.S. dollar bulls welcomed data on Thursday showing the world's biggest economy grew at a solid 3.2 percent annualised rate in the fourth quarter.

Traders said that was enough to support the view that the Federal Reserve can continue to wind down its stimulus programme, boosting the dollar's attraction against other major currencies.

All 70 economists in the latest Reuters poll expect the Fed to maintain the pace of its tapering and reduce its monthly asset purchases by $10 billion at each of the seven remaining Federal Open Market Committee meetings this year.

The euro skidded to a one-week low of $1.3543 on Thursday and also lost ground on the Japanese currency, touching an eight-week trough of 138.90.

Soft German inflation data ahead of a euro zone reading later on Friday kept alive market speculation that the European Central Bank could come under more pressure to act to stave off the risk of deflation.

Economists forecast the euro zone inflation rate, due at 1000 GMT, to come in at 0.9 percent in January, up slightly from 0.8 percent in December.

A sharp drop in euro zone inflation in the second half of last year sparked talk that the euro zone is at risk of slipping into deflation, although many investors do not regard this as their main scenario.

The ECB holds its policy review next week, with any sign of a greater willingness to take additional easing steps seen as putting further pressure on the common currency.

JAPAN INFLATION

On the other hand, Japan's core consumer price inflation accelerated to 1.3 percent in January, the highest level in five years, as Japan has pursued aggressive monetary easing for more than a year to end deflation.

The Bank of Japan's monetary easing and Japan's ballooning trade deficit are expected to keep the yen in check, although the yen is likely to post its first monthly gain in six months in January, having risen about 2.5 percent so far.

Against the yen, the dollar drifted at 102.78 yen, having reversed some of Wednesday's 0.7 percent fall and off a seven-week low of 101.77 yen hit on Monday on concerns about emerging market woes.

Investors also bought back some beaten-down commodity currencies as stress in emerging markets eased off a little after India, Turkey and South Africa all raised interest rates this week to defend their currencies.

The Australian dollar was one such beneficiary, bouncing back towards 88 U.S. cents as it pulled away from a 3-1/2 year low of $0.8660 plumbed a week ago.

The Aussie stood at $0.8794, little changed on the day but on course to post its first gain in three weeks.

Its New Zealand peer, however, enjoyed no reprieve with kiwi bulls still smarting after the Reserve Bank of New Zealand kept interest rates unchanged at a record low 2.5 percent on Thursday despite expectations for a rate hike.

The New Zealand dollar was also tripped by candid comments from New Zealand central bank chief Graeme Wheeler on Friday that a high New Zealand dollar is a considerable headwind for the economy and that he likes to see it lower.

The kiwi dipped as low as $0.8145, near Thursday's one-month low of $0.8127 even as Wheeler also reiterated that interest rates must rise as soon as March. The currency last stood at $0.8162.