* Dollar hits highest vs yen since December 2002
* Jobless, housing data support view on U.S. rate hike
* Traders wary of verbal intervention from Japanese officials
* Euro firm despite Greek debt morass, G7 discusses (Updates market action, changes byline, dateline, previous LONDON)
By Richard Leong
NEW YORK, May 28 (Reuters) - The dollar climbed to a 12-1/2-year high against the yen on Thursday as investors bet that U.S. interest rates will rise later this year while Japanese monetary policy remains ultra-loose.
The latest data on U.S. jobless claims and pending home sales supported expectations the Federal Reserve is moving toward raising rates by year-end, analysts said.
“The tone in U.S. economic numbers is improving. This reminds investors U.S. rates are moving up later this year and has revived the dollar’s appeal since last week,” said Omer Esiner, chief market analyst at Commonwealth Foreign Exchange Inc. in Washington.
The greenback rose to 124.46 yen on the EBS trading system before scaling back to 124.215, up 0.4 percent from its Wednesday U.S. close. Year to date, the dollar has gained 3.8 percent against the yen.
Traders said players are now wary of potential verbal intervention by Japanese officials to steady the yen.
On Wednesday, Japanese policymakers cautioned markets against pushing the yen down too rapidly.
In contrast, the greenback weakened against the euro even in the absence of a deal between Greece and its lenders, although hopes persisted that the cash-strapped nation will soon secure more money to avert a default.
Finance ministers from the Group of Seven nations who met on Thursday in Dresden, Germany, discussed Greece’s protracted debt negotiations, with the United States leaning on Europe to come up with a deal.
“The market clearly doesn’t think that the June 5 deadline really is a deadline, and I think we’re drifting further in that direction,” said Adam Cole, global head of FX strategy at RBC Capital Markets in London. “So that’s diminishing the risk premium in the euro.”
The euro zone single currency was up 0.2 percent at $1.09195, bouncing in a tight range of $1.08670 to $1.09510 during the global session, according to EBS data.
The biggest mover on other major currencies was the Australian dollar, which shed 1.2 percent against a rallying greenback after disappointing Australian capital expenditure data prompted speculation about another rate cut next week.
Commodity currencies came under pressure across the board, with the Aussie hitting a six-week low of $0.7618 and New Zealand’s dollar shedding over 1 percent to trade at $0.7130 , its weakest in over four years.
The Canadian dollar also fell to a six-week low of C$1.2538 against its U.S. counterpart. (Additional reporting by Jemima Kelly in London, Tomo Uetake in Tokyo and Ian Chua in Sydney; Editing by James Dalgleish)