FOREX-Dollar falls in thin trade amid lower safe-haven demand

(New throughout; changes dateline, previous LONDON)

NEW YORK, Dec 30 (Reuters) - Thin end-of-year volumes exacerbated broad weakness in the U.S. dollar on Monday, which dipped for three straight sessions and on Friday suffered its biggest one-day fall since March.

The dollar index, which measures the currency against a basket of six rivals, weakened 0.22% to 96.708 in North American trade. With Friday’s loss, the index’s gains for the year have shrunk to around 0.6%, compared to growth of about 4.4% in 2018.

“We’ve had a downdraft in the dollar for the last three-four sessions. It seemed to have accelerated beginning Friday and into today,” said Greg Anderson, global head of foreign exchange strategy at BMO Capital Markets.

“I don’t think there’s any fundamental story behind it. Maybe the market stocked up a little bit on long dollar (positions) before the turn, and now there doesn’t seem to be a need for the position. And so it’s bleeding out of a very thin market.”

Some analysts argued the move was a continuation of a trend of weaker demand for dollars on increased optimism about U.S.-China trade relations and the global growth outlook. Improved sentiment, which discourages investors from buying dollars as a safe-haven asset, drove the euro to a 4-1/2-month high of $1.121 on Monday. It was last up 0.22% at $1.120.

Signs that the euro zone economy has turned a corner have lifted the EU single currency in recent weeks.

“The main drivers of the weaker dollar have likely been risk appetite holding up in the wake of U.S. comments pertaining to a Phase 1 trade deal recently, as well as the U.S. Federal Reserve’s continued repo operations, which have recently been undersubscribed,” MUFG analysts said.

Chinese Vice Premier Liu He will visit Washington this week to sign the Phase 1 trade deal with the United States, the South China Morning Post reported on Monday.

China’s yuan strengthened to touch 6.9742 in the offshore market, its highest since Dec. 13.

Sterling was last trading 0.34% stronger against the dollar at $1.312.

Against the euro, the pound recovered earlier losses and was last up 0.08% at 85.36 pence. Concerns that Britain is headed for a disruptive “hard Brexit” at the end of 2020 had been hurting the pound since mid-December. (Reporting by Kate Duguid and Tommy Reggiori Wilkes Editing by Nick Zieminski)