* Risk currencies supported by optimism on U.S.-China trade
* British pound near 3-week low on fresh Brexit concerns
* Graphic: World FX rates in 2019 tmsnrt.rs/2egbfVh
By Hideyuki Sano
TOKYO, Dec 24 (Reuters) - The Australian dollar held firm on Tuesday near a 4-1/2-month peak on optimism about U.S.-China trade relations, while the British pound was on the defensive as worries resurfaced about a chaotic departure from the European Union.
The Australian dollar fetched $0.69295 in early trade, up 0.12% and within striking distance of its Dec. 13 peak of $0.6939, its highest level since late July. The currency has gained over 1% in the past four sessions.
China said on Monday it will lower tariffs on products ranging from frozen pork and avocado to some types of semiconductors next year as Beijing looks to boost imports amid a slowing economy and a trade war with the United States.
“It is possible to view this news as supporting the Aussie dollar, but considering that the Aussie has been strong since last Thursday, we should probably think that it reflects waning concerns over geopolitical risks,” said Tohru Sasaki, head of research at J.P. Morgan.
Other risk sensitive currencies were also generally well-supported.
The New Zealand dollar stood at $0.6626, just below a five-month high of $0.6639 hit on Monday, while many emerging market currencies, including the Mexican peso, the Indonesian rupiah and the Russian rouble, held near multi-month peaks.
The British pound, however, slipped to three-week lows as the market braced for more uncertainty after the United Kingdom officially leaves the European Union in January.
As Prime Minister Boris Johnson has made it illegal to extend trade talks with the EU beyond the end of next year, investors fret the country could crash out without any trade deal.
Other major currencies moved little in holiday-thinned trade on Tuesday.
The euro stood almost flat at $1.1094 while the yen was little changed at 109.37 yen per dollar.
The dollar index stood at 97.645, off Monday’s high of 97.820.
The dollar showed a limited response to a soft reading in new orders for key U.S.-made capital goods.
Orders for non-defense capital goods excluding aircraft, a closely watched proxy for business spending plans, edged up just 0.1% in November, slightly below market expectations.
U.S. capital expenditure is likely to stagnate in coming months after Boeing announced last week it would suspend production of its best-selling 737 MAX jetliner following two fatal crashes of the now-grounded aircraft.
The firm’s failure to resolve its crisis led it to oust Chief Executive Dennis Muilenburg on Monday. (Reporting by Hideyuki Sano; editing by Richard Pullin)