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FOREX-Euro holds below 2-week high before survey data; Aussie falls
Published at 21/02/2019 at 08:13

* Graphic: World FX rates in 2019

By Saikat Chatterjee

LONDON, Feb 21 (Reuters) - The euro held below a two-week high on Thursday as investors waited for survey data to get a clearer idea on the outlook for the euro zone economy, while the Australian dollar fell after a Chinese port banned imports of the country's coal.

France and Germany report February Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) data shortly, followed by the euro zone flash PMI data at 0900 GMT.

A bunch of weak data since January has undermined support for the single currency, prompted investors to revise down their inflation expectations in the coming months and pulled core bond yields lower.

"The economic situation in the euro zone seems much more critical (to the euro) at present," Commerzbank strategists wrote in a daily note. "Against this background, today's PMIs are likely to be of particular interest."

The single currency was a shade lower at $1.1335 on Thursday after hitting a two-week high of $1.1371 on Wednesday. It has fallen more than 2 percent from a 2019 high of near $1.16.

A Citibank economic surprise index shows the euro zone indicator is still wallowing near six-month lows hit last month.

Morgan Stanley's ETF tracker indicates purchasing of euro zone equities on a FX hedged basis has grown to its highest levels since August 2015, a sign of growing bearishness on the single currency.

Elsewhere, the Australian dollar tumbled after customs officials at China's northern Dalian port banned imports of coal from major supplier Australia, just days after the central bank stepped back from its long-standing tightening policy bias.

The indefinite ban on coal imports from Australia, effective since the start of February, comes as major ports elsewhere in China prolong clearing times for Australian coal to at least 40 days.

The Aussie fell one percent to $0.7086 in a volatile Asian trading session before retracing some losses to stand 0.7 percent down on the day.

Broadly, the dollar index, which measures the U.S. unit against a basket of six major currencies, added 0.11 percent to 96.559 after minutes from the Federal Reserve's last meeting revived expectations for a U.S. rate hike this year.

(Reporting by Saikat Chatterjee; Additional reporting by Shinichi Saoshiro in TOKYO; Editing by Jan Harvey)

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