Dollar holds steady, yuan rises on better-than-expected China data

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By Brigid Riley

TOKYO, Sept 15 (Reuters) – The dollar held steady in Asia on Friday, edging off slightly from overnight gains against peers, as the yuan strengthened in the wake of some market-beating economic data out of China.

The dollar jumped overnight after U.S. retail sales received a boost from higher gasoline prices, increasing 0.6% in August versus an estimated 0.2% rise, while market participants reacted to the European Central Bank’s 25-basis point hike.

The U.S. dollar index =USD last stood somewhat lower at 105.32, but still near Thursday’s six-month peak of 105.43.

The euro remained near Thursday’s multi-month low of $1.0632 against the greenback.

The yuan and Australian and New Zealand dollars received a boost after a batch of economic data from China in the Asian morning came in better-than-expected for some key indicators, providing a rare lift in sentiment.

The offshore yuan inched up against the dollar to 7.2918 following the release.

The yuan had weakened on Thursday after the People’s Bank of China’s (PBOC) announced that it would make its second 25-basis point cut to banks’ reserve requirement ratio this year.

While the move was aimed at keeping liquidity ample and supporting a nascent economic recovery, it could exacerbate the decline in the already struggling yuan ,as domestic rates fall further.

The PBOC has provided “piecemeal” stimulus, but the economy still suffers from a lack of consumer confidence, said Rodrigo Catril, senior FX strategist at the National Bank of Australia.

“We think it’s a little bit too early to see, if you like, the green shoots coming from all the stimulus that’s been introduced.”

The Australian dollar AUD=D3, a proxy for China growth, rose nearly 0.3% to $0.6443, while the New Zealand dollar was up 0.2% at $0.5912.

Elsewhere, the euro EUR=EBS held around $1.0641, near a six-month low of $1.0632 against the dollar after the ECB hiked rates another 25 basis points at its monetary policy meeting on Thursday.

“It appears that markets have characterized the ECB’s 25bp hike yesterday to a dovish hike…that has sent EUR and European yields tumbling,” analysts at Mizuho Bank said in a note.

Sterling also hovered around a three-month low to the dollar at $1.2408.

The yen stuck near 147.41 per dollar in the Asian morning.

With the yen hanging close to a 10-month trough, market participants have been keeping a cautious watch for the possibility of intervention by Japanese authorities.

“We’re keeping a close eye on USDJPY at the 150 level and given the market’s reluctance to take it up to that point, we don’t think we’re alone in doing this,” said Simon Harvey, head of FX analysis at Monex Europe.

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