* Dollar steady vs yen after previous day’s 1.7 pct bounce
* U.S. factory activity accelerates, highest in two years
* Nonfarm payrolls the next hurdle for U.S. dollar
* Aussie dollar hits fresh 3-year low
By Masayuki Kitano
SINGAPORE, Aug 2 (Reuters) - The dollar held steady versus the yen on Friday, clinging to hefty gains made the previous day after better-than-expected U.S. data stirred hopes for an upbeat nonfarm payrolls report.
The dollar was little changed on the day at 99.56 yen after having surged about 1.7 percent on Thursday, the greenback’s biggest one-day percentage rise against the yen in about four months.
U.S. data on jobless claims and manufacturing that showed the world’s largest economy was recovering steadily had fuelled Thursday’s rally in the dollar.
Investors are now looking forward to nonfarm payrolls data, to be released later on Friday, with greater expectations that July will show a solid rise, which could increase the likelihood that the Federal Reserve will start scaling back its monetary stimulus later this year.
A Reuters survey of economists pointed to an increase of 184,000 in nonfarm payrolls. The jobless rate is seen dropping to 7.5 percent from 7.6 percent.
With expectations already running high, however, analysts said the dollar could slide if the jobs data were to disappoint.
“I think you have to be careful this time,” said Daisuke Karakama, market economist for Mizuho Bank in Tokyo. “There was talk in the market yesterday that the number could be about 205,000 or 210,000, so I get the sense that these types of numbers have already been factored in.”
The dollar index, which measures the greenback’s value against a basket of currencies, held steady at 82.363, having bounced from a six-week low of 81.407 set on Wednesday.
The Fed’s post-meeting statement on Wednesday had offered no fresh hints that the U.S. central bank was preparing to reduce its monetary stimulus at its next policy meeting in September, and market players are looking to U.S. economic data for clues on when such tapering might start.
Short-term market positioning is probably tilted toward being long the dollar, said Satoshi Okagawa, senior global markets analyst for Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation in Singapore.
“If we get a bad number the dollar might fall sharply,” he said.
Still, the greenback will probably head higher over the longer term since the Fed seems to be moving in the direction of monetary tightening, even if the timing of any interest rate hike is still far off, Okagawa said.
“I think we will see some back and forth moves. But when you take a look back at some point, you’ll end up realising that the dollar has risen quite a bit,” he added.
The euro held steady at $1.3209, having retreated from a six-week high of $1.3345 set on Wednesday.
The euro had come under pressure on Thursday after the European Central Bank left interest rates at a record low 0.5 percent and affirmed that they will remain there for some while to come and could yet fall further.
The Australian dollar, already on the back foot, dipped to a fresh three-year low of $0.8889 before recovering a bit to last stand at $0.8910. It was on track to end the week down around 3.9 percent.
Analysts in a Reuters poll conducted this week were unanimous in expecting a quarter point rate cut at Tuesday’s Reserve Bank of Australia policy meeting.
Slower growth in China, Australia’s top export market, a domestic economy that is growing below potential and a tame inflation outlook mean the RBA has room to lower its cash rate to a record low 2.5 percent.