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Dollar near 6-week lows, Asian shares mostly softer

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[February 18, 2014]  By Hideyuki Sano

TOKYO (Reuters)  A string of disappointing U.S. data pinned the dollar near six-week lows against a basket of currencies on Tuesday, while Asian shares mostly eased after solid gains in recent sessions.

The dollar index stood at 80.114 <.DXY> near its lowest level so far this year while gold and silver stood near 3-1/2-month highs on the back of the dollar's weakness.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan <.MIAPJ0000PUS> slipped 0.2 percent as Chinese shares slid from two-month highs after the Chinese central bank said it would drain funds from money markets.

Japan's Nikkei stock average <.N225> bucked the trend, rising 0.9 percent helped by a pullback in the yen, building on a 0.6 percent rise the previous day.

Some of its strength is likely to stem from speculation the Bank of Japan could take fresh easing steps such as buying more shares on Tuesday, although a majority of market players see no policy change.

While waning concerns over emerging market economies have underpinned risk assets in the past week, some analysts cautioned that share markets may be getting ahead of themselves in assessing the economic outlook.

"There is a bit of a fault line between the currency market and the stock market at the moment. U.S. shares are riding on optimistic views on the U.S. economy but the currency market is viewing the U.S. economic fundamentals less favorably," said Daisuke Uno, chief strategist at Sumitomo Mitsui Bank.

A run of weak U.S. data, including an unexpected fall in January manufacturing output on Friday and an underwhelming report on payrolls in the last two months, has put the dollar under pressure.

But Wall Street shares have rallied in recent sessions, with the S&P 500 index <.SPX> edging near an all-time high hit last month, in part on the view that weak figures were an aberration stemming from bad weather.

While some investors could be speculating that the Fed may slow its policy tightening, most expect it is likely to stick to the current pace of reducing its bond-buying by $10 billion at each of its policy meetings.

The market may get more clarity on Wednesday when the Fed publishes the minutes of its last policy meeting on January 28-29.

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As the dollar lost altitude, the euro held firm at $1.3702, having hit a three-week high of $1.37245 on Monday.

The single currency was also helped by an improving mood after Italian centre-left leader Matteo Renzi, who has pledged to deliver more ambitious reforms, received a mandate to form a new government.

That helped to push Italian debt yields to eight-year lows.

The dollar recovered to 101.92 yen from a one-week low of 101.38 yen hit on Monday as Japanese shares rose but some traders said it could slip again if the BOJ stands pat.

"I doubt BOJ Governor Kuroda can take fresh easing steps at this point. There will likely be a bit of disappointment after the BOJ and we could see both the dollar/yen and the Nikkei heading lower," said Hideki Amikura, forex manager at Nomura Trust Bank.

The Australian dollar hit a five-week high of $0.9078, testing stiff chart resistance around $0.9080.

Gold and silver held near their 3-1/2-month peaks hit on Monday, with gold trading at $1,328.30 per once and silver at $21.64.

(Editing by Shri Navaratnam and Jacqueline Wong)

[ 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.]

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