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FOREX-Euro strengthens ahead of ECB meeting

Tom Finn

* U.S., Mexico unable to reach agreement on tariffs, yen edges up

* Immediate market focus on ECB policy decision later on Thursday

* Already wobbly Mexican peso hit as Fitch cuts credit rating

* Graphic: World FX rates in 2019 http://tmsnrt.rs/2egbfVh (Recasts with euro, updates prices)

LONDON, June 6 (Reuters) - The euro rose on Thursday as investors prepared to scrutinise a European Central Bank meeting, wanting to know how concerned its policymakers are about signs of a downturn in growth.

The euro has strengthened recently on the back of dollar weakness caused by rising bets on a U.S. interest rate cut.

The single currency was 0.2% higher at $1.1239 after brushing a 1-1/2-month high of $1.1307 earlier this week.

The ECB will try at Thursday's meeting to give the ailing euro zone a boost and may set the stage for more action later this year as an escalating global trade war unravels the benefits of years of monetary stimulus.

It will also give updated staff growth and inflation forecasts.

"What matters during the ECB meeting today is whether the Council will stick to its view that the economy will recover in the second half of the year," Antje Praefcke, an analyst at Commerzbank, wrote in a note to clients.

"Draghi would have to sound very concerned about the growth and inflation outlook to cause a reaction in the euro."

ECB President Mario Draghi is expected to maintain guidance about the possibility of more stimulus.

Recession fears are sweeping across the world and central banks have in recent weeks cut rates in what could signal the start of a fresh global monetary easing cycle.

Japan's yen approached a five-month high on Thursday after a lack of progress in U.S.-Mexico trade talks hurt risk sentiment and drove investors towards safe-haven currencies.

The Japanese yen has been the main beneficiary from a shift towards assets investors deem safer.

It rose as much as 0.3% to 108.07 yen per dollar, close to its strongest level since Jan. 10, after negotiations in Washington on Wednesday aimed at averting U.S. tariffs on Mexican goods showed little sign of progress.

U.S. President Donald Trump unexpectedly told Mexico last week to take a harder line on curbing illegal immigration or face 5% tariffs on all its exports to the United States.

The Mexican peso, already saddled with trade concerns, took a hit after credit ratings agency Fitch downgraded its sovereign debt rating on Wednesday by a notch from BBB+ to BBB, just two notches above junk status.

The dollar index against a basket of six major currencies stooped to a two-month low of 96.749 midweek as benchmark U.S. yields declined sharply this week to 21-month lows on investor risk aversion and heightened prospects of the Federal Reserve cutting interest rates. (Editing by Catherine Evans and Kirsten Donovan)