FOREX-Aussie slides on poor data, eyes on German inflation

Reuters

(Corrects 14th paragraph to read to, not from, the developed world)

* Aussie dollar slips on weak domestic capital spending data

* Ukraine nerves support dollar

* Euro slips to two-week low on soft data signs

By Patrick Graham

LONDON, Feb 27 (Reuters) - The Australian dollar led moves on major currency markets on Thursday, down half a percent against the dollar after weak data on business investment, deep in negative territory at the end of a commodities-led boom.

The euro also dipped in early trade, hurt by the first signs of soft regional inflation figures out of Germany and renewed worries over tensions between Russia and Ukraine, which has prompted investors to seek the safety of the dollar.

A big loser in the second half of last year, the Aussie has regained a foothold in the past month on the back of a change in tone by the Reserve Bank of Australia, previously intent on weakening the currency to support growth.

But most strategists still say longer-term fair value for the Aussie is around $0.84-85, compared with highs above $0.90 hit earlier this month. The currency was down 0.5 percent at $0.8922 in early European trade, hit by a 5.2 percent fall in capital spending in the fourth quarter, the biggest drop in more than four years.

"There has been a bit of a turn in sentiment on the Aussie in the past month and that is down to the RBA, so if we get down to around 89 against the dollar we should see some support," said Derek Halpenny, strategist with Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi UFJ in London.

"We're not a million miles from the level we think we should eventually get to, which is around $0.85 but I don't think we'll see that now."

The highlight of the European day is likely to be German inflation numbers which may set the tone for the European Central Bank's policy meeting next week.

If the numbers are low, it could tip the balance of a market split on the chances of more easing of policy by the ECB next Thursday.

Consumer price inflation numbers traditionally dribble in from German states in the European morning before the national figure at 1300 GMT, forecast at 1.3 percent. An initial readout of just 1.2 percent annual inflation from Saxony helped prod the euro 0.2 percent lower at 1.3658.

"We are a little softer this morning. I would say the market is positioned a little less than 50-50 on the chances of action by the ECB," said Halpenny.

"If you'd asked me a couple of weeks ago, I'd have said there was more certainty (that they would ease) so that is probably edging lower but I think a lot of people may be waiting for the inflation numbers to make their minds up."

DOLLAR SOLID

The U.S. dollar held near a two-week high against a basket of major currencies, as heightening tensions in Ukraine helped support safe-haven demand for the greenback.

The dollar index was a touch higher at 80.486, close to Wednesday's peak of 80.524, its highest since Feb. 13.

The year's major investment trend so far has been a retreat of capital to the developed world, partially due to the first moves towards tighter monetary policy in the United States but supported by a series of shocks to developing markets.

That has supported traditionally safer currencies including the dollar, yen, euro and Swiss franc. The euro fell to a two-month low against the franc of 1.2168 francs

"The Ukraine-Russia situation is clearly not helping the euro. There are supply issues there on gas and just generally it is pushing people towards the dollar as a safe haven," said a trader with one major bank in London, asking not to be named.

(Additional reporting by Ian Chua and Masayuki Kitano, editing by Nigel Stephenson)

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