FOREX-Dollar heads for 1st weekly gain in five on debt optimism
* Dollar rises vs yen on prospect of U.S. debt deal * Republicans offer plan to stave off default threat * Dollar index on pace for 0.3 percent rise this week By Wanfeng Zhou NEW YORK, Oct 11 (Reuters) - The dollar edged lower against a basket of major currencies on Friday but was headed for its first weekly gain in five, as optimism grew Washington may soon clinch a stop-gap deal to avert a devastating U.S. default. President Barack Obama and Republican leaders appeared ready to end a political crisis that has shuttered the U.S. government and pushed the country dangerously close to default after meeting at the White House on Thursday. One senior Republican said an agreement could come on Friday. But uncertainty remained as the likelihood of no deal until the Oct. 17 deadline is still high, analysts said, which could pressure the dollar and help safe-haven currencies such as the yen. Worries about the U.S. budget and debt crisis had driven the dollar to an eight-month low last Thursday. "A short-term deal would keep the level of uncertainty relatively high and likely keep consumers' and business sentiment pressured," said Omer Esiner, chief market analyst at Commonwealth Foreign Exchange in Washington D.C. "The ongoing fiscal drag would in-turn, likely keep the Federal Reserve from scaling back its monetary easing further into 2014." The dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of six major currencies, slipped 0.1 percent to 80.329. It's on pace for a gain of 0.3 percent this week, the first weekly rise since early September. The dollar rose 0.1 percent to 98.27 yen, having hit a session peak of 98.55 yen, according to Reuters data, the highest since Oct. 1. Support is seen at the 200-day moving average of 96.87 yen. The euro rose 0.3 percent to $1.3557. Paul Bednarczyk, head of research at 4CAST said markets were hoping for a deal before the end of the weekend. "If we get a deal that is more than just can-kicking, then equities will go up and dollar/yen will go up with it. There is a very reliable correlation at the moment and nobody is going to fight it," he said, adding that the dollar could target 100 yen. High-yielding, growth-sensitive currencies rose. The New Zealand dollar gained 0.6 percent to $0.8323. The Australian dollar also rose slightly to $0.9454. The fiscal impasse has taken the spotlight off the Federal Reserve. But expectations are growing the central bank will have to evaluate the impact of a government shutdown, entering its 11th day, before starting to scale back its stimulus. A survey showed Friday U.S. consumer sentiment deteriorated in October to its weakest level in nine months as the first federal government shutdown in 17 years undermined Americans' outlook on the economy. The dollar showed little reaction to the data. "If it was not already, it will be near impossible for the Fed to commence tapering before year-end if only a six-week debt extension is agreed," said Tom Levinson, FX strategist at ING, in a note to clients. He said the dollar index would struggle to sustain a rally to 81.00, the level it reached before the Fed surprised markets on Sept. 18 by opting not to start trimming its bond buying.