TOKYO–The dollar edged down in Asia Thursday ahead of closely watched U.S. jobless claims and housing data which investors will look to for clues about the strength of the world’s largest economy. The greenback bought 104.35 yen in Tokyo afternoon trade, down from 104.54 yen in New York Wednesday, while the euro inched higher on the dollar at US$1.3546 from US$1.3544. The European single currency fetched 141.32 yen, from 141.59 yen in U.S. trade. “Markets could gain more momentum amid a slightly heavier data slate scheduled for today, with eurozone PMI (purchasing managers’ index) set to improve further while U.S. existing home sales growth will stabilize after three months of declining sales,” Credit Agricole said.
Investors are keeping a close eye on the U.S. figures ahead of the Federal Reserve’s policy meeting next week, as speculation grows that the Fed will further reduce its stimulus drive. Last month the central bank said it would trim its bond-buying scheme by US$10 billion a month to US$75 billion in January, citing a firming economy. On Wednesday, the yen staged a short-lived rally after the Bank of Japan (BoJ) said its monetary easing program was winning the war against deflation and held off unveiling any fresh stimulus measures, which tend to weigh on the currency. The BoJ’s unanimous decision after a two-day meeting was widely expected, with analysts predicting the central bank would expand its asset-buying plan later this year to counter the effects of an April sales tax hike. The greenback rose against other Asia-Pacific currencies. It strengthened to 1,072.76 South Korean won from 1,068.23 won on Wednesday, and to 12,168 Indonesian rupiah from 12,153 rupiah. The dollar also rose to 45.30 Philippine pesos from 45.27 pesos, to 61.97 Indian rupees from 61.94 rupees, to 32.97 Thai baht from 32.88 baht and to SG$1.2814 from SG$1.2786. The Australian dollar eased to 87.98 U.S. cents from 88.64 cents, while the Chinese yuan bought 17.23 yen against 17.21 yen.