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Renewed optimism launches US dollar to trade near 5-year high against yen

SINGAPORE--The U.S. dollar traded near a five-year high against the yen in thin Asian trade Thursday as investors began the new year with renewed optimism about the world's top economy.

The greenback eased to 105.30 yen from 105.33 yen in New York on Tuesday, after touching 105.41 on Monday — its strongest since October 2008.

The euro was down to US$1.3752 in Singapore afternoon trade from US$1.3753, and to 144.80 yen from 144.89 yen.

Desmond Chua, market analyst at CMC Markets in Singapore, said the dollar gained support from “upbeat U.S. economic reports,” tracking a positive lead from Wall Street on Tuesday.

The U.S. Conference Board on Tuesday released data showing consumers in the United States turned sharply confident about the economy and job market in December.

The survey came after the government reported in early December that the U.S. unemployment rate had dropped to a five-year low of 7.0 percent last month while jobs growth accelerated.

The S&P Case-Shiller 20-city composite home price index also released Tuesday showed a gain of 13.6 percent year-over-year, the largest annual increase since February 2006, although smaller than the 13.8 percent rise expected by analysts.

The commodities-based Australian dollar meanwhile fell to 89.15 U.S. cents from 89.36 cents in Singapore on Tuesday after figures showed that factory activity in China had slowed.

China, the world's number two economy, is Australia's largest trading partner according to Canberra, spending billions on resources it needs to fuel its growth, while Australia is China's seventh largest partner.

The greenback was mixed against other Asia-Pacific currencies.

The dollar rose to SG$1.2656 from SG$1.2654 on Tuesday,to 1,051.30 South Korean won from 1,049.80 won and to 32.92 Thai baht from 32.79 baht.

It eased to 12,163 Indonesian rupiah from 12,170 rupiah, to 61.83 Indian rupees from 61.86 rupees and to 44.32 Philippine pesos from 44.40 pesos. The Chinese yuan bought 17.40 yen from 17.36 yen.

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