[SINGAPORE] The US dollar strengthened against the yen in Asia on Thursday as upbeat US data and speculation of a Japanese intervention helped cement gains from talk of a Federal Reserve interest rate hike next month.
After dipping to an 18-month low around 105.50 yen on Tuesday, the greenback has enjoyed a minor rally in the past two days after two of the US central bank's regional heads raised the possibility of tighter borrowing costs.
On Thursday, the US dollar was at 107.08 yen, up from 107.03 yen in New York Wednesday. It also rose against the euro, which dipped to US$1.1485 from US$1.1488. The single currency was changing hands at 123.00 yen from 122.96 yen.
Trading was thin with holidays in Japanese markets for most of the week.
"Some investors probably feel that there is an increased possibility of (Japanese) government intervention... and therefore decided to take some of their yen bids off the table," IG Markets Singapore analyst Bernard Aw said in a note. "This helped (dollar) to strengthen broadly," he said.
The greenback won support on Tuesday after Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart called a June rate increase "a real option" while San Francisco chief John Williams said he would lend support to a hike if the economy continued on its recovery track.
There had been doubts the Fed would raise interest rates next month after data last week showed consumer spending rose only slightly in April, while the economy grew a lot slower than expected in January-march. A well-below-forecast reading on US manufacturing activity this week compounded the problems.
But figures Wednesday showed an improvement in the key services sector, while new orders for US manufactured goods surged.
However, the US dollar is still struggling against the yen and is almost 13 per cent down from the start of the year, with a shock decision last month by the Bank of Japan not to widen its stimulus ramping up the pressure.
The greenback also rose against most emerging market currencies, putting on almost one per cent against the South Korean won, 0.5 per cent against the Indonesian rupiah and 0.3 per cent versus the Malaysian ringgit.