FOREX-Dollar firms in early Asian trade, market eyes Ukraine
* Dollar hits 2 1/2 week high vs yen after data shows Japan's record trade deficit
* Unrest in Ukraine likely to limit safe-haven yen's losses
* Status quo favours continued range trading for USD-strategist
By Lisa Twaronite
TOKYO, April 21 (Reuters) - The dollar firmed in early Asian trading on Monday, though a tense situation in Ukraine was likely to keep traders on their toes, with some markets still closed for the Easter holiday.
The dollar rose to a 2 1/2 week high against the yen after data showed Japan logged a record trade deficit in the fiscal year that ended in March. It last bought 102.58 yen, up about 0.1 percent, after rising as high as 102.63 yen.
The U.S. unit also edged higher against a basket of major currencies, with the dollar index adding about 0.1 percent to 79.871.
Many markets around the world were closed on Friday ahead of Easter weekend, and some will remain closed on Monday, meaning activity is likely to be lighter than usual.
"The greenback's gains are consistent with our caution last week against playing for a breakout as key support for the dollar had been approached," Marc Chandler, global head of currency strategy at Brown Brothers Harriman, said in a note to clients.
"The issue remains the same for the week ahead. Assuming no exogenous shocks, such data or comments that require a significant reassessment of the macro-view, that is to say, the continued status quo favours continued range trading," Chandler added.
Unrest in the Ukraine added to the yen's safe-haven appeal and was likely to keep the Japanese currency's losses in check.
At least three people were killed in a gunfight early on Sunday near a Ukrainian city controlled by pro-Russian separatists, shaking a fragile international peace accord.
The euro added about 0.2 percent against its Japanese counterpart to 141.67 yen, moving back toward a two-week high of 141.77 yen hit on Wednesday.
Against the greenback, the euro was steady at $1.3813 , though still well shy of a 3-1/2-week peak of $1.3906 marked on April 11.
The euro hit a 2-1/2-year high near $1.40 last month, prompting European Central Bank officials to express their concern that a strengthening currency could damage the euro zone's nascent recovery.
In the week ahead, U.S. housing data on Tuesday will likely confirm that the spring selling season got off to a slow start last month. Commerce Department data on Wednesday is tipped to show new home sales little changed, though the durable goods orders report on Thursday is expected to show a 2.0 percent increase in overall orders and a 1.5 percent rise in the orders for core capital goods.
While the outlook for U.S. monetary policy remains key to the dollar's direction, comments from Federal Reserve officials will temporarily cease from Tuesday, due to the formal blackout that prohibits any public communications on policy until the Friday after the next regular Federal Open Market Committee meeting taking place April 29-30. (Editing by Shri Navaratnam)