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Embattled euro licks wounds in Asia, still vulnerable

A picture illustration shows Euro banknotes in front of a stocks graph in Sarajevo March 9, 2015. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

By Ian Chua

SYDNEY (Reuters) - The euro wallowed just above a fresh 12-year low early on Thursday having faced an unrelenting onslaught this week as the European Central Bank kicked off its 1 trillion euro bond-buying campaign.

The program has already driven yields of many euro zone bonds deeper into negative territory and others to all-time lows. A 30-year German bond now offers a yield that is less than that of a two-year U.S. Treasury note.

Unsurprisingly, investors kept well clear of the common currency. It fell as far as $1.0511, stopping just short of the March 2003 trough of $1.0501. A break there will only heat up talk of parity. The euro last stood at $1.0554.

Against sterling, it fell to its lowest in over seven years at 70.11 pence. It hit a record low of NZ$1.4434 and slumped to a near two-year trough 127.64 yen.

Developments in Greece continued to garner some attention, though Athens appeared to have made no headway in persuading euro zone partners to renegotiate terms of a 240 billion euro bailout.

In contrast, the dollar climbed further, fueled in part by expectations the Federal Reserve is not far from lifting interest rates.

The dollar index came within a whisker of 100.00 for the first time since April 2003. Versus the yen, the greenback traded at 121.41, not far off an eight-year peak of 122.04 set on Tuesday.

"While our fair value metrics suggest USD gains are getting stretched, we note that positioning remains only moderately long USD at this point and, with U.S. yields still likely to rise in the weeks ahead, we think it makes sense to stay long," analysts at BNP Paribas wrote in a note to clients.

Against commodity currencies, the U.S. dollar hovered just below six-year peaks on its Canadian and Australian peers.

Australia's employment data due at 0030 GMT will be the next test for the Aussie dollar. Any upside surprises could see markets quickly unwind already very bearish positions.

The New Zealand dollar came close to testing last month's four-year trough of NZ$0.7177 but rebounded to 73 U.S. cents after the Reserve Bank of New Zealand sounded less dovish than markets had positioned for.

"When you look through the statement, the threshold for cutting the cash rate right now is perhaps a little bit higher than what markets have been anticipating," said Nick Tuffley, economist at ASB Bank.

(Editing by Shri Navaratnam)