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Dollar hits multimonth highs in Asia

TOKYO--The dollar hit multimonth highs against the euro and yen in Asia Wednesday after a surge in U.S. housing construction boosted optimism over the state of the world's number one economy.

In late afternoon Tokyo trade, the greenback rose to 103.23 yen at one stage, its strongest level in four months, and well up from 102.91 in New York.

The euro weakened to nine-month low of US$1.3303 from US$1.3321 in U.S. trade, while it strengthened to 137.29 yen against 137.07 yen.

In other trading, the British pound fell to as low as US$1.6602, its weakest level since April.

Traders moved out of the yen — seen as a safe-haven currency in times of turmoil — after the upbeat U.S. data and as investor concerns about a clash between Russia and Ukraine eased.

Housing starts in the world's biggest economy jumped 15.7 percent in July to their strongest level since last November, while new building permits rose 8.1 percent.

The figures would boost hopes for an earlier-than-expected U.S. interest rate hike, which tends to boost the dollar.

Easing geopolitical jitters, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart will meet next week for the first time in two months. The gathering will also involve senior European Union officials.

The dollar rally also came ahead of Wednesday's release of minutes from the policy-setting Federal Open Market Committee's last meeting.

Analysts will pore over the minutes for signs of whether the Fed might accelerate the timeline for raising rates, now expected in the second half of 2015.

The dollar was mostly stronger against other Asia-Pacific currencies.

It edged up to SG$1.2480 from SG$1.2443 on Tuesday, to 31.91 Thai baht from 31.84 baht, and to 11,701.50 Indonesian rupiah from 11,675.10 rupiah.

The greenback also advanced to 1,022.54 South Korean won from 1,017.58 won, and to 43.81 Philippine pesos from 43.68 pesos. It slipped to 60.73 Indian rupees from 60.74 rupees.

The Australian dollar fell to 92.98 U.S. cents from 93.36 cents, while the Chinese yuan rose to 16.79 yen from 16.69 yen.

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