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Dollar may suffer from weather-hit data

U.S. data this week—including durable goods orders and consumer confidence—will continue to reflect the impact of extreme weather, presenting a downside risk for the U.S. dollar, according to CNBC's latest survey of currency strategists and traders.

"'Team Econ' has been doing a very poor job of forecasting the U.S. data right," said Robert Rennie, Global Head of FX Strategy at Westpac Bank, who has a "bearish" view on the dollar this trading week. "So more pain to come."

Though there may be a headline impact on the dollar from sub-par data, the recent spate of softer economic numbers—tainted by the adverse weather—isn't likely to dissuade the Federal Reserve from altering the pace of its monthly asset purchases.

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"U.S. economic data has been on the weak side lately but this will not be enough to make the Fed [pull] back from the tapering process," said Hans Goetti, head of investment, Asia at B.I.L. "Tapering remains on target."

This week's CNBC survey results were evenly split between those who expect to see last week's broad-based dollar gains eroded by softer data and those who believe the dollar's relative resilience will continue, as the currency market and the Fed write off what many regard as one-off seasonal factors masking the economic numbers.

(Read more: Weather taunts traders betting on regaining highs)

About 35 percent (6 out of 17 respondents) forecast gains in the U.S. dollar this trading week; an exact equal number said the dollar will fade, while about 30 percent (5 out of 17) said the currency will be little changed.

Still, positioning appears to be in favor of the bears. Speculators pared bets on the U.S. dollar in the latest week, with net longs—or bullish bets—sliding to their lowest in more than three months, according to data from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission released last Friday.

Risk aversion

While the dollar lost ground against the euro last Friday, it carved out its first week of broad advances against a basket of major currencies in three weeks. But the greenback may unwind recent strength against the Japanese yen if political tensions in Ukraine, Venezuela or Argentina intensify, triggering a flight into safe-haven currencies like the yen or Swiss franc.

"Worries over possible risk aversion argue against a short JPY position," said Greg Gibbs, FX Trading Strategist at RBS. "However, the rapid deterioration in the external balance and widening in the real interest rate differential in favor of USD/JPY suggest pressure should build for it to rise to new highs."

Data from IG Markets support that view, and shows 66 percent of its more than 501 clients with open positions expect the dollar to rise against the yen.

"It feels like we're still in consolidation mode at the moment, with equity markets looking stable," said Kara Ordway, Forex Strategist at City Index in Sydney. "We have seen buying in USD/JPY so there still seems to be some expectation of yen weakness but still within the range we have seen over the past couple of trading weeks."

(Read more: Dollar chastened by weak US data)

Ordway said only additional Bank of Japan monetary easing measures, possibly via an expansion of asset purchases, would create meaningful yen weakness. But that "looks unlikely" until May or June, when the impact of a hike in the consumption tax becomes clearer.

Meanwhile, any further evidence of slowing growth in China may continue to take a toll on currencies including the Australian dollar, said Khoon Goh, senior FX strategist at ANZ. "Commodity currencies [will]struggle as weak China data weighs," he said.

However, Ed Ponsi, managing director of Barchetta Capital Management, said markets are now "somewhat used to the idea of a weaker China," and the further data weakness may not necessarily mean a "risk-off" reaction where emerging currencies, along with those of countries that trade heavily with them, are shunned.

By CNBC's Sri Jegarajah

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