FOREX-High-flying euro cedes ground after ECB Constancio's comments

Reuters

* Euro retreats further from 2-1/2 year highs

* ECB policy to be accommodative for some time -Constancio

* BOJ holds policy steady, downgrades view of exports

* NZ dollar hits post-flotation high on trade-weighted basis

By Anirban Nag

LONDON, March 11 (Reuters) - The euro fell against the dollar and the yen on Tuesday after a senior European Central Bank (ECB) policymaker told investors that they may have missed the message on policy that rates are set to remain accommodative for some time to come.

Vice President Vitor Constancio told MNI news agency that the ECB made its forward guidance more precise at its March meeting by emphasising the slack in the euro zone economy. The ECB still had policy ammunition in the form of lower interest rates or quantitative easing if needed, he said.

The euro fell 0.3 percent against the dollar to $1.3835 retreating further from the 2-1/2-year peak of $1.3915 hit on Friday. The euro was down 0.2 percent at 143 yen , off a recent two-month high of 143.79 yen.

"Euro/dollar is at crucial levels, technically speaking," Ned Rumpletin, G10 currency strategist at Standard Chartered, said. The single currency's inability to close above $1.3894 (its Dec. 27 high) on Friday indicated that the recent rally maybe losing steam in the short term, he said.

"Nevertheless, we have a hawkish ECB chief, higher real yields and a market which is losing its patience with the consensus higher dollar trade. We have adjusted our Q1 and Q2 euro/dollar forecasts and now expect euro to finish Q1 at $1.38, up from $1.32 previously and Q2 at $1.35, up from $1.31."

The euro raced higher last week as the ECB signalled it was unlikely to ease policy anytime soon, despite slowing inflation, and President Mario Draghi said the currency's strength was having only a marginal impact on imported inflation.

YEN CLIMBS

The yen edged up after the Bank of Japan stood pat on monetary policy and its chief, Haruhiko Kuroda, said there was no need to adjust monetary policy for now.

The BoJ maintained its stance on massive monetary stimulus, as widely expected, and stuck to its view that economic growth and consumer price increases remain on track. It downgraded its view of exports but upgraded its view of capital expenditure and industrial production.

The dollar was slightly lower at 103.25 yen, trading at the bottom of Tuesday's 103.19-103.43 yen range.

The yen is also a safe-haven currency, so it is being supported by worries over Chinese growth and conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

"Dollar/yen has been in a range between 101-104 yen for much of this year, and the yen needs a fresh trigger for the next leg of weakness," Peter Kinsella, currency strategist at Commerzbank, said. "That could come from a steady deterioration in Japan's trade and current account deficits."

Analysts also said further yen weakness could come if the BoJ indicated it was ready to ease policy further to cushion the economy from the adverse impact of a sales tax hike.

The BoJ's next meeting on April 30 comes after a sales tax increase scheduled to take effect on April 1. The central bank will also release its semi-annual economic outlook then, which investors say could give it an opportunity to alter its outlook and justify a policy move.

Meanwhile, ahead of a widely expected rise in New Zealand interest rates on Thursday, the New Zealand dollar hit its highest since flotation against a currency basket in 1985.

On a trade-weighted basis, the kiwi rose as high as 79.68, according to Reuters data. The Reserve Bank of New Zealand is set to raise rates and lay out a path for a series of increases over the next two years, according to a Reuters poll.

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