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Australian dollar lunges higher as data bolsters steady rate view

The Australian dollar romped higher on Thursday after strong data added to the view the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) was done cutting interest rates.

The Aussie leapt as much as half a cent to $0.8981, its highest in nearly a month, from $0.8909 in early trade. It was last at $0.8969, bringing gains so far this week to nearly 2 percent.

(Read more: 2014 a 'litmus test' for Australia economy: Goldman)

A break above key chart resistance of $0.8988 would target $0.9087, the January peak.

The Aussie dollar had already been on the rise after the Reserve Bank of Australia dropped on Tuesday its easing bias and scaled back its verbal campaign for a lower currency.

"Much of the Aussie weakness in December-January was because of the continued perception the RBA was not happy about the high currency," said a trader at a European Bank in Singapore.

Sydney, Australia
Adam Jeffery | CNBC
Sydney, Australia

"Now a bit of that bearishness has been neutralized," he said, forecasting the Aussie between 90 and 91 cents.

The latest bounce came after better-than-expected retail sales in December, which added to evidence that consumer spending was helping revive the economy from a cooling mining boom.

(Read more: Australia's inflation spike creates dilemma for central bank)

Other data also showed the country boasted its biggest trade surplus in two years in December as exports to China surged 29 percent to a record A$94 billion for all of 2013. China is Australia's top export market.

The upbeat news sent interbank futures a touch lower, implying only a one-in-seven chance of a cut in coming months. Financial markets are also pricing in around 6 basis points of tightening on a 12-month horizon, from 2 basis points of cuts last week.

The Aussie also jumped to one-month highs against the euro and pound, with the common currency down 0.6 percent on the day at A$1.5086.

The euro has dropped 2 percent this week amid speculation the European Central Bank (ECB) may be forced to ease further to ward off the threat of deflation. The ECB holds its policy meeting later in the session.

Likewise, the pound skidded to A$1.8185, from a peak of A$1.8968 last month. The Aussie even managed to outpace a broadly stronger yen to 90.95, from 90.31 in early trade and a low of 88.18 Monday.

(Read more: Another reason why Australians are lucky)

Against its New Zealand peer, the Aussie rose as high as NZ$1.0902, pulling closer to a peak of NZ$1.0948 set Tuesday.

The combination of Aussie strength and a looming interest rate hike in New Zealand sent the kiwi to $0.8250, from $0.8212 early, way off a five-month low of $0.8052 on Monday. Trading, however, was thinned due to a public holiday in New Zealand.

Australian government bond futures extended losses, with the three-year bond contract down 4 ticks at 97.030. The 10-year contract lost 5 ticks to 95.990.

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