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Dollar pares gains; euro down versus franc in London

The dollar pared earlier gains on Wednesday as investors positioned themselves for US data later this week that could be key indicators of when the Federal Reserve will slow its huge bond-buying programme. The euro fell to a two-month low against the Swiss franc after data showed an uneven recovery in the currency bloc. Hedge funds sold the euro ahead of next week's Swiss National Bank meeting, at which it is likely to reiterate its commitment to the euro/Swiss peg of 1.20 francs.

The Australian dollar fell to a three-month low as investors pared back riskier bets and after Australia's GDP growth came in below market expectations. The US dollar was 0.1 percent lower against the yen at 102.41 yen, having traded as high as 102.84. The dollar index was up 0.1 percent to 80.641.

Markets are eyeing US GDP data on Thursday and the non-farm payrolls report on Friday, which investors will study for clues about when the Fed will taper its monetary stimulus. Its next policy meeting is on December 17-18. Many investors and analysts expect the Fed to begin reducing stimulus at its March meeting, so an upbeat employment report would increase speculation that tapering could come earlier.

"(Investors) are taking off dollar longs," said Geoffrey Yu, currency analyst at UBS, who expects tapering to begin in January. "Even if there are robust payrolls, it won't be enough to push for a December tapering." Manuel Oliveri, currency strategist at Credit Agricole who expects the Fed to begin tapering in January, said this could be the most important week of the year for the dollar.

He added: "There's a lot of risk for the dollar to appreciate on the back of surprise data from the US" The euro was marginally lower against the dollar at $1.3586. Service sector data showed activity in Italy and France contracting in November but expanding in Spain and Germany, highlighting the divergence in the bloc. The European Central Bank meets to set policy on Thursday, having last month unexpectedly cut its key interest rate to a record low of 0.25 percent.

"People are (also) looking at what could potentially happen at the ECB tomorrow," said UBS's Yu. "There might be a few people expecting them to ease. I don't think we're going to get anything." Hedge funds sold the Australian dollar after data showed 0.6 percent growth in GDP in the third quarter, below analysts' median forecast of 0.8 percent. That news came just a day after the Reserve Bank of Australia kept its cash rate steady at a record low of 2.5 percent, although it reiterated that the local currency remained "uncomfortably high", and expectations have now grown that it could act at its next meeting.

The Aussie fell 1.2 percent to $0.9025, breaking through the key support level of $0.9050/55. A sustained break could see a retracement all the way to this year's low of $0.8848. Hedge funds have been negative on the Aussie for some time. CQS founder Michael Hintze, whose firms runs around $12 billion, told Reuters last month that he was short the Australian dollar, citing the "very, very clear" wish of central bank governor Glenn Stevens for it to weaken.

Copyright Reuters, 2013


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