FOREX-Dollar firm after Fed president’s comments; US data in focus

* San Francisco Fed chief gives nod to rate hike this year

* Limited reaction to weaker than expected Chinese data

* Focus on U.S. retail sales (Updates prices, adds comments)

By Hideyuki Sano and Masayuki Kitano

TOKYO/SINGAPORE, Aug 12 The dollar held firm on Friday, supported by comments from a senior Federal Reserve official suggesting a U.S. interest rate increase this year is still a real possibility as inflation pressures emerge.

The dollar’s index against a basket of six major currencies edged up 0.1 percent to 95.903, having pulled up from this week’s low of 95.442 touched on Wednesday. For the week, the dollar index was still down about 0.3 percent.

“The dollar appears to be on a much more solid footing than when markets were worried about the impact of Brexit. It may take time a bit but its direction is clearly looking upwards,” said Koji Fukaya, CEO of FPG Securities.

Against the yen, the dollar edged up 0.1 percent to 102.04 yen, having pulled up from this week’s low near 101 yen.

The euro held steady at $1.1140 after retreating from Thursday’s high of $1.1192.

San Francisco Fed President John Williams said in an interview with the Washington Post published on Thursday that the Fed should raise rates this year because of improving labour market conditions and the likelihood that inflation is heading higher.

Although a strong reading on U.S. payrolls data last Friday boosted optimism about the U.S. economy, many investors are still far from convinced the Fed can raise interest rates because of an uncertain global economic outlook.

Concerns about a slowing Chinese economy are one of the major issues currently on investors’ minds, given that China has been the biggest contributor to global growth for a long time.

Chinese data on Friday underscored such concerns. China’s industrial output and retail sales in July rose less than expected. Growth in fixed asset investment in the January to July period also missed forecasts and slipped to the lowest year-to-date rate in more than 16 years.

Market reaction to the data was limited, possibly due to hopes among market participants that Chinese authorities will take measures to support economic growth, said Masashi Murata, currency strategist for Brown Brothers Harriman in Tokyo.

“I’m still worried about these results, even though the market didn’t react much. There is no way that you can say they are good,” he said.

A focus will be whether Fed Chair Janet Yellen expresses any concern about the Chinese economy in her speech at the Federal Reserve’s Jackson Hole symposium on Aug. 26, Murata added.

Sterling edged up 0.2 percent to $1.2976, but was down 0.7 percent for the week. The pound had set a one-month low of $1.2936 on Thursday as more signs of weakness in the housing market fanned worries about the post-Brexit UK economy.

The pound also languished near its three-year low hit against the euro last month.

The euro last fetched 85.86 pence. On Thursday the euro rose to as high as 86.24 pence, just below its July peak of 86.29 pence.

Later on Friday, investors will turn their focus to U.S. retail sales data, which is expected to show a 0.4 percent monthly increase in July, according to the median estimate in a Reuters poll. (Reporting by Hideyuki Sano and Masayuki Kitano; Editing by Sam Holmes and Eric Meijer)

Source: Reuters

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