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Weak US housing data hurts dollar, but gains on yen

The dollar fell against the euro on Friday after weak U.S. housing data stoked concerns about the American economy, but remained on track for its first week of broad gains against a basket of major currencies in three weeks.

The greenback, however, rose to to a three-week high versus the yen.

The National Association of Realtors said that home sales dropped 5.1 percent to an annual rate of 4.62 million units in January, an 18-month low. The data added to recent weak U.S. economic data on retail sales and home builder confidence.

Early in the session, the euro hit a high just under $1.38 against the dollar and was last trading up 0.20 near $1.37, putting the dollar on track to notch its third weekly loss. The dollar was also down 0.2 percent against the Swiss franc at around 0.89.

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The dollar was little changed against a basket of major currencies, however, at just under 80.25. The dollar index has regained some footing after touching a trough near 79.93 on Wednesday, its lowest level since late December.

Despite the latest weak U.S. economic data, traders have been reassured after the release on Wednesday of the minutes from the Federal Reserve's Jan. 28-29 policy meeting that the Fed's asset reduction plan remains intact, Smith of Cambridge Mercantile said.

The minutes showed that several policymakers wanted to emphasize that their asset purchase program would be trimmed in predictable, $10 billion steps unless the economy's performance surprises them.

Against the yen, the dollar edged up almost 0.3 percent to above 102 yen. It hit a peak of 102.82 yen, its strongest level since late January. A jump in the Nikkei index weighed on the safe-haven yen and gave the dollar an additional boost.

Traders are watching for developments from this weekend's Group of 20 meeting of finance ministers and central bank chiefs in Sydney, where global growth and recent turmoil in emerging markets are expected to be in focus.

Emerging market officials are pushing for a discussion of the impact of the Fed's stimulus withdrawal on their economies, a top Russian central banker said on Friday. But the Fed's focus is likely to remain on U.S. economic conditions rather than the implications of tapering on emerging markets, analysts said.

Highlighting the continued selloff in emerging markets on Friday, the Chinese yuan fell to its lowest since mid-October against the dollar in the offshore market.

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By Reuters

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