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Euro takes breather after rally; US dollar holds steady

[SINGAPORE] The euro eased on Wednesday to take a breather from a rally prompted by optimism over the euro zone's economy and expectations the European Central Bank will wind down its bond-buying stimulus in 2018.

The euro slipped 0.1 per cent to US$1.2048. The currency hit a four-month high of US$1.2081 on Tuesday, marking a gain of roughly 3 per cent from a mid-December trough and bringing it close to a September high of US$1.2092, the currency's highest level since early 2015.

It was boosted by data showing euro zone manufacturers ended 2017 by ramping up activity at the fastest pace in more than two decades as rising demand suggested they will start the new year on a high.

The euro was also supported by expectations for a shift in ECB monetary policy this year.

The ECB board member in charge of the central bank's market operations, Benoit Coeure, said at the weekend that he saw a "reasonable chance" bond purchases would not be extended beyond September.

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ECB rate-setter Ewald Nowotny told a German newspaper in an interview that the ECB may end its stimulus programme this year if the euro zone economy continued to grow strongly.

"It's this monetary policy normalisation everywhere that's playing catch-up to the Fed, and that's why the dollar is weak," said Heng Koon How, head of market strategy for United Overseas Bank in Singapore.

The US dollar index against a basket of six major currencies held steady at 91.902, having pulled up from Tuesday's 3-1/2 month low of 91.751.

Later on Wednesday, investors will turn their attention to the minutes of the Federal Reserve's December policy meeting, when it raised interest rates for the third time in 2017.

Further cues are likely from US economic data this week, including jobs figures on Friday.

"One key is whether the Fed minutes and US jobs data will prompt the US 10-year bond yield to clearly rise above 2.5 per cent," said Teppei Ino, an analyst for Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ in Singapore, which would boost the dollar.

The US 10-year Treasury yield was 2.465 per cent at the close of US trade on Tuesday, below a nine-month high of 2.504 per cent on Dec 21.

Commodity-linked currencies took a breather from a rally spurred in recent weeks by higher metal and oil prices.

The Canadian dollar last stood at C$1.2521 per US dollar. It briefly rose to C$1.2500 early on Wednesday, matching Tuesday's peak and its highest level since Oct 20.


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