FOREX-Euro lower as poor data feeds ECB rate cut expectations
* Euro near Friday's 2-1/2-month low
* Shared currency hurt by weak euro zone data
* Growing bets on ECB rate cut this week
NEW YORK, March 4 (Reuters) - The euro remained near a 2-1/2-month low on Monday on rising expectations that euro zone economic worries will push the European Central Bank to cut interest rates sooner than previously anticipated.
Although a Reuters poll last week showed economists expected the ECB to keep rates on hold this Thursday, some strategists said euro weakness would persist on growing expectations bank chief Mario Draghi would hint at future cuts.
Poor euro zone sentiment and unemployment data since last week could compel the ECB to revise down its outlook for the currency bloc's economy and consider earlier rate cuts, they said.
Data on Monday showed euro zone sentiment tumbled in March on renewed political uncertainty in Italy, the euro zone's third-largest economy.
Italy's inconclusive election last week also weighed on the currency. Analysts are concerned that without a stable government, the country will be unable to pass reforms required to get its borrowing and debt under control.
"There's growing speculation that the European Central Bank will show a greater willingness to push the benchmark interest rate to a fresh record low," said David Song, currency analyst at DailyFX in New York.
"The fundamental developments coming out of the euro area may continue to drag on the exchange rate should it highlight a weakening outlook for growth and inflation," Song added.
The euro hit a session low of $1.2980, not far from a 2-1/2-month low of $1.2965 struck on Friday, after the euro zone Sentix data was released. The single currency was last down 0.3 percent on the day at $1.2989.
Stop loss orders are cited below $1.2960 with reported option barriers at $1.2950, $1.2925 and $1.2900. A break below $1.2900 could take the euro towards its next support at $1.2844, its 200-day moving average at current prices.
The euro was also lower against the yen at 121.23 yen , a drop of 0.5 percent.
Overall the outlook for the euro was glum and some analysts said poor euro zone services Purchasing Managers' Index surveys on Tuesday and growth data on Wednesday could push the euro even lower if they fell below forecasts.
"The euro is down on a general risk-off mood ... Draghi could be more dovish and there could be a rate cut this week. If not, he could signal something is in the offing," said Jane Foley, senior currency strategist at Rabobank in London.
Some US$3.3 billion in euros changed hands using Reuters Dealing.
Investors discarded growth-linked currencies such as the Australian dollar after China announced measures to tighten curbs on the property market.
The Australian dollar fell to a near eight-month low of $1.0113 and was last down 0.4 percent on the day at $1.0162.
The dollar was down 0.3 percent against the yen at 93.30 yen with the session low at 93.15. Joseph Trevisani, chief market strategist at WorldWideMarkets, Woodcliff Lake in New Jersey, said losses accelerated after going through stop loss orders at 93.40, with support likely at 93.15 and 93.
Other central bank meetings and announcements this week include the Reserve Bank of Australia, the Bank of Japan, the Bank of Canada and the Bank of England.
The U.S. data highlight will be jobs data on Friday for February.
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