* U.S./Japan yield differentials in focus-strategist
* Disappointing U.S. jobs data fails to alter Fed taper expectations
* Commodity currencies in the spotlight
By Lisa Twaronite and Ian Chua
TOKYO/SYDNEY, Feb 10 (Reuters) - The dollar edged up to its highest level since late January on Monday on expectations that the U.S. Federal Reserve will proceed with its stimulus withdrawal even after downbeat jobs data.
The dollar bought 102.40 yen, up slightly on the day, after it rose as high as 102.65 yen. That helped the dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of six rivals, gain about 0.1 percent to 80.735, moving away from a one-week low of 80.599 plumbed on Friday.
“The rationale is mainly that higher U.S. yields relative to Japan, from risk appetite over the coming months, will favour the dollar,” said Mitul Kotecha, Hong Kong-based head of global foreign exchange strategy for Credit Agricole.
The yield on benchmark 10-year Treasuries stood at 2.678 percent in Asia on Monday, compared to their U.S. close Friday at 2.675 percent, while the yield on 10-year Japanese government bonds stood at just 0.605 percent.
“I would argue that we’ll see some turnaround in capital flows as well,” he said.
Japanese investors recently accelerated their pace of net foreign bond sales to the most in four months.
A weaker yen has been a double-edged sword for Japan. Data from the Ministry of Finance on Monday showed the current account balance for December slid to the largest deficit on record as exporters failed to reap the benefits of a weak currency, and the country also posted its smallest current account surplus on record last year.
Positioning also tipped more heavily in the dollar’s favour last week. Speculators raised dollar bets in the week through Jan. 4 after paring them last week to the lowest in more than two months, according to data from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission released on Friday.
It was the 14th straight long position for the dollar, against a backdrop of stimulus withdrawal by the Federal Reserve.
Disappointing U.S. employment data on Friday failed to change investors’ expectations of U.S. monetary policy. While the rise of 113,000 U.S. payrolls was well short of a forecast increase of 185,000, the details were not bad enough to sway the Fed from steadily winding down its bond-buying stimulus, traders said.
Moreover, the unemployment rate actually fell to a five-year low of 6.6 percent even as Americans piled back into the labour market in search for work.
“The detailed data suggests the U.S. is indeed moving towards a stronger economy and that the unwinding of monetary stimulus will be taken in stride,” said Evans Lucas, market strategist at IG in Melbourne.
“It also suggests the headline data, while disappointing on the surface, is actually moving towards the FOMC’s ‘trigger’ points at a pace the board will be more than pleased with.”
The euro fetched 139.52 yen after rising as high as 139.80 yen earlier, also its highest since late January.
Against the greenback, the euro traded at $1.3621, down about 0.1 percent on the day but still not far from a one-week high of $1.3649 reached on Friday.
Last week, the European Central Bank policy review provided no new leads for near-term euro direction, although the ECB gave a fairly clear steer that action could be taken next month if new internal forecasts show a further deterioration in inflation.
This week, traders will be looking at Fed Chair Janet Yellen’s first Congressional testimony and economic growth data from the euro zone for fresh cues.
Dollar bloc commodity currencies came into their own last week, with the Australian, Canadian and New Zealand dollars posting their best weekly gain in about five months.
The Aussie rallied after the Reserve Bank of Australia dropped its bias to ease, while upbeat local data gave the loonie and kiwi a boost.
Figures on Friday showed Canada recouped 29,400 of the 44,000 jobs lost in December, and the unemployment rate fell to 7.0 percent from 7.2 percent, diminishing talk of a possible interest rate cut by the central bank.
That saw the loonie climb to its highest in over two weeks. It was last at C$1.1029 per U.S. dollar, steady on the day, having risen as high as C$1.0968 on Friday.
The Aussie edged down about 0.2 percent to $0.8934, but was still not far from a four-week peak of $0.8999 set on Friday, while the kiwi bought $0.8272, down about 0.3 percent on the day but still not far from a 1-1/2 week high of $0.8297.