(Recasts, updates prices, adds comment, U.S. data, changes byline, dateline; previous LONDON)
* U.S. jobless claims fall more than expected
* Sterling volatility jumps as Scots vote on independence
* U.S. housing starts decline in August
By Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss
NEW YORK, Sept 18 (Reuters) - The dollar rose to a more than six-year peak against the yen on Thursday, after data showed U.S. jobless claims fell more than expected last week, reinforcing the market’s view that U.S. interest rates will rise sooner rather than later.
The dollar index, a measure of the greenback’s value against six currencies, climbed to its strongest level in more than four years, supported by the Federal Reserve’s interest rate forecasts that were higher than those projected in June. The outlooks were provided after the Fed’s monetary policy meeting on Wednesday.
The Fed’s statement and remarks by Fed chair Janet Yellen about the U.S. economy were a bit more cautious, but that did not prevent the dollar from rallying.
Some strategists were surprised at the extent of the dollar’s rally and felt market participants have put too much credence in the rate forecasts, instead of what Fed officials said.
“I just think that the dollar will be in a consolidation phase in the short term after yesterday’s sharp gains,” said Greg Moore, senior currency strategist, at RBC Capital Markets in Toronto.
“The fact of the matter is the Fed will still be data-dependent. Even Janet Yellen yesterday was reluctant to commit to any rate scenario,” he added.
The dollar rose as high as 108.96, the strongest since late August 2008. It last traded at 108.74, up 0.4 percent.
The U.S. currency’s gains extended after the government reported that initial claims for unemployment benefits dropped by 36,000 to a seasonally adjusted 280,000 for the week ended Sept. 13, the lowest since July.
Economists polled by Reuters expected claims to fall to only 305,000 last week. The four-week moving average of claims, considered a better measure of labor market trends as it irons out week-to-week volatility, slipped by 4,750 to 299,500.
Separately, a government report showed U.S. housing starts declined in August, but upward revisions for July offered hope the housing market was continuing to gradually improve.
The dollar index hit a more than four-year peak of 84.782 and was last at 84.462, up 0.2 percent.
The greenback retraced gains versus the Swiss franc, trading down 0.4 percent at 0.9369 franc. On Wednesday following the Fed meeting, the dollar hit a one-year high against the Swiss currency.
The euro recovered after falling to a 14-month low on Wednesday versus the dollar to trade 0.2 percent higher at $1.2893.
Sterling, meanwhile, made more progress, the result of growing conviction among traders that a “No” vote will prevail in Thursday’s Scottish referendum, heading off the threat of a shock to the UK political and financial status quo.
The pound was last up 0.6 percent at $1.6376. (Additional reporting by Patrick Graham in London; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)