The dollar fell close to a seven-month low against the yen on Thursday on downbeat comments from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, while better-than- forecast euro zone data buoyed the euro.
Bernanke said the U.S. economic outlook was unusually uncertain and that the Fed was ready to ease monetary policy further if necessary, sending the two-year U.S. Treasury yield to a record low and diminishing the allure of the dollar versus the yen.
The dollar also fell versus the euro, with traders citing earlier buying of the single currency by east European accounts and a western European corporate, while data showing a jump in euro zone manufacturing and services activity and in industrial output lifted sentiment.
Attention focused on the release of European bank stress test results, due at 1600 GMT on Friday although some sources said they may be released earlier.
The euro has had a good run against the dollar in anticipation of the test results, rising to a 10-week high above $1.30 on Tuesday as, traders bet most of the 91 European banks being examined would pass.
Some in the foreign exchange market say the test results could be positive for the euro if they reveal no unpleasant surprises, but doubts linger over whether the checks are tough or transparent enough.
The market has certainly bought the rumor going into this week that the stress tests will be positive and people have been going long euro/dollar, with weak U.S. economic data making it look like a no-lose situation, said Lauren Rosborough, currency strategist at Westpac.
She said the euro was likely to see a short-lived rally after the results, which could turn to selling next week as market participants concluded after the tests that the problems facing euro zone peripheral countries have not gone away.
At 0943 GMT (5:43 a.m. EDT), the euro was up 0.5 percent at $1.2824, well above an earlier session low of $1.2739, though traders said it ran into offers around the $1.2850 area, keeping it below the previous day's highs above $1.29.
Against the yen, the euro recovered from earlier falls, trading up 0.1 percent at 111.16 yen, having earlier hit a two-week low around 110.03.
DOLLAR FALLS VS YEN
The dollar was down 0.4 percent at 86.72 yen, extending losses after a 0.5 percent fall on Wednesday, on a mixture of Japanese exporter offers and hedging selling related to some currency-linked structured notes.
Traders said the dollar could fall fast if it broke below a seven-month trough of 86.27 yen hit last week, with stop-loss dollar offers believed to be waiting below that level.
However, Yuki Sakasai, a forex strategist at Barclays Capital in Tokyo, said it was unlikely to fall much below the seven-month low for now.
What Bernanke has said is essentially the same as the minutes (of the Fed's June 22-23 meeting). So his comments alone are unlikely to push the dollar/yen below recent trading ranges, Sakasai said.
The rise in the yen, which gained steeply on the crosses on Wednesday, has been hampered by caution that Japanese policymakers may try to talk it down as it nears a 14-year high around 85 yen per dollar hit last November.
Deputy Finance Minister Motohisa Ikeda said on Thursday Japan wants to avoid excessive rises in the yen, but market reaction was muted.
(Additional reporting by Hideyuki Sano in Tokyo)