* Graphic: World FX rates in 2018 tmsnrt.rs/2egbfVh
By Saikat Chatterjee
LONDON, March 28 (Reuters) - The euro consolidated gains on Wednesday after hitting a six-week high in the previous session as investors waited for fresh catalysts to push the single currency higher.
With the euro on track to post its fifth consecutive quarter of gains — up more than 3 percent in the current quarter — markets looked for fresh evidence that the European Central Bank might unwind its policy stimulus plan earlier than indicated.
“There is still a lot of risk on the table and markets need fresh triggers to push the major currencies higher, such as the euro, and we are seeing a whiff of caution around these levels,” said Viraj Patel, an FX strategist at ING in London.
The ECB said this month it could still extend its 2.55 trillion euro ($3.17 trillion) bond purchase scheme beyond September if needed. But it skipped a reference to potentially increasing purchases, a signal that it remains on track to end the three-year-old stimulus scheme before the end of 2018.
On Tuesday, policymaker Ewald Nowotny said the ECB will probably decide this summer to slash its bond purchases, warning that the ECB must not fall “behind the curve”.
A late selloff in U.S. technology shares on Tuesday weighed on global stock markets but currency markets remained broadly immune, with high-yielding currencies such as the Australian and Canadian dollars well supported.
The dollar recovered slightly on hopes that negotiations between the United States and China would produce a compromise and avoid a full-blown trade war.
But news that U.S. President Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel had discussed “joining forces to counter” China’s economic practices and alleged intellectual property theft raised fears that trade tensions could escalate.
The U.S. currency was 0.2 percent higher at 105.56 Japanese yen, well off a 16-month low of 104.560 yen set on Monday but down from an overnight high near 106.000.
“The dollar lost some traction as equity markets sank following the latest media report on U.S. trade policy,” said Masafumi Yamamoto, chief forex strategist at Mizuho Securities in Tokyo.
U.S. data due later in the day include the final estimate of fourth quarter gross domestic product and pending home sales.
The pound was broadly stable against most currencies, particularly the euro on media reports that a new proposal from the British government for the Irish border question is expected to be announced “imminently”. (Reporting by Saikat Chatterjee Additional reporting by Shinichi Saoshiro in TOKYO Editing by Catherine Evans)