CORRECTED-FOREX-Euro ekes out gain, Aussie lifted by jobs, China data
(Corrects 5th graf for day and level of euro's high vs dollar)
* Bank of Japan holds steady as expected; yen in recent ranges
* Dollar index slips as risk appetite improves
* New Zealand dollar falls on disappointing jobs data
By Lisa Twaronite
TOKYO, Aug 9 (Reuters) - The euro got a slight lift against major counterparts and the Australian dollar crested at a 4-1/2 month peak on Thursday after Chinese inflation data suggested scope for further easing and Australia's employment picture brightened.
Data showed China's annual consumer inflation fell to a 30-month low in July, suggesting that country's central bank can follow up rate cuts in June and July to stimulate the economy.
By contrast, rate-cut expectations waned in Australia, after data released at the same time as China's showed a rise in Australian employment in July surpassed expectations while the jobless rate surprised with a dip to 5.2 percent.
"Today's data releases can be said to be better than expected, though overall, market moves were small, with recent ranges holding for now," said Kimihiko Tomita, head of foreign exchange for State Street Global Markets in Tokyo.
The euro edged up 0.1 percent to $1.2378, though still well short of a one-month high of $1.2444 set on Monday.
The European unit also inched up 0.2 percent against the yen to 97.17 yen but remained below Tuesday's peak of 97.82 yen. Against its Japanese counterpart, the U.S. dollar was at 78.50, mired in the narrow 77.90-78.80 yen range that has held since late July.
The Australian dollar rose to $1.0615, its highest level since March 20, and was last up about 0.3 percent at $1.0593.
Separate Chinese data released after the inflation report showed China's factory output growth slowed to 9.2 percent last month, the weakest in more than three years. Retail sales figures also fell short of expectations, suggesting stimulus steps could be forthcoming to spark the economy.
Commodity currencies such as the Aussie have fared well in recent sessions, bolstered by hopes that the European Central Bank will act next month to ease painfully high borrowing costs for debt-laden Spain and Italy.
Analysts, though, warned that market optimism will fade if there is no fresh developments in the euro zone soon.
"The longer Spain delays asking for EFSF help, the more the market can think about the conditions that would attached to such help. And the more everyone can worry," said Kit Juckes, strategist at Societe Generale.
Many market participants also expect the U.S. Federal Reserve to take further stimulus steps, which has fuelled appetite for riskier assets.
With expectations of central bank stimulus riding high, the safe-haven U.S. dollar has languished. The dollar index slipped 0.1 percent to 82.281, moving close to a one-month low of 82.041 touched on Tuesday.
KIWI SINKS, BUT STILL BOLSTERED BY CARRY TRADES
Also on the central bank front, the Bank of Japan kept monetary policy steady on Thursday as widely expected but was more bearish in its economic view of exports and output.
Investors took aim at the New Zealand dollar early on Thursday on the back of a disappointing jobs report, pushing the kiwi dollar to a near one-week low around $0.8111. The unemployment rate rose unexpectedly to 6.8 percent, confounding expectations for a fall to 6.5 percent from the previous year's 6.7 percent.
But the New Zealand dollar has risen more than 6 percent in trade-weighted terms since the start of June, lifted by a flood of yield-seeking cash pouring out of larger central banks, the Reserve Bank of New Zealand Governor Alan Bollard said on Thursday.
"As a small open economy, New Zealand has often seen the effects of carry trades on the exchange rate," Bollard said in a speech that was to be delivered in Australia on Thursday.
"This can be distortionary and problematic, because an economy relies on its exchange rate as a signalling price." (Additional reporting by Ian Chua in Sydney; Editing by Eric Meijer)
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