Dollar hits highest against yen since mid 2010

The dollar on Friday hit its highest against the yen for more than two years, as yen-selling sentiment remained strong after Japan's new prime minister vowed to push for aggressive monetary easing.

In Asian afternoon trade the greenback was at 87.73 yen, the highest level since July 2010, compared with 87.19 yen late Thursday in New York.

The euro bought $1.3034 against $1.3052, while the single currency was also at 114.35 yen from 113.80 yen.

The yen-selling pressure continued as Tokyo fully returned to trading, following the closure of Japanese markets from the end of 2012 until Thursday for New Year holidays.

The dollar has climbed since US Congress struck a last-minute fiscal deal earlier this week to avoid most of the punishing tax hikes that could have jolted the tepid economy back into recession.

"The upward trend is clear," Kengo Suzuki, forex strategist at Mizuho Securities, told Dow Jones Newswires.

"Speculators remain keen to sell the Japanese yen while commercial players are sidelined," Suzuki said. "The market will likely search for how far the Japanese yen will be able to fall."

The Japanese currency has been on the decline since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who took office late December, stepped up pressure on the central bank to take bold easing steps.

Abe threatened to change a law guaranteeing the central bank's independence if it did not agree to set a two percent inflation target, in a bid to drag Japan out of deflation that has haunted its economy for years.

The dollar may gain further if the US December jobs report, which will be released later in the day, shows a gain of 150,000 jobs in non-farm payrolls, said Masafumi Yamamoto, chief FX strategist at Barclays Bank in Tokyo.

The dollar also strengthened against the euro after Federal Reserve minutes from its latest meeting showed some policy makers favoured ending asset purchases set to stimulate the economy sometime this year.

The dollar was also mostly higher against Asia-Pacific currencies.

It rose to Sg$1.2287 from Sg$1.2221 on Thursday, to 9,790 Indonesian rupiah from 9,645 rupiah, to 30.45 Thai baht from 30.37 baht, to 40.89 Philippine pesos from 40.82 pesos, and to 54.85 Indian rupees from 54.49 rupees.

The greenback was flat at Tw$29.01 while falling to 1,063.84 South Korean won from 1,064.37 won.

The Australian dollar fell to $1.0438 from $1.0491 while China's yuan was at 14.05 yen from 13.99 yen.

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