* NZ dollar helped by trade surplus, RBNZ comments
* Euro extends ECB-spurred drop to 3-week low
* Norwegian crown rises after Norges announcement (Updates prices, add details)
By Patrick Graham
LONDON, March 27 (Reuters) - The New Zealand dollar hit its highest since mid-2011 on Thursday, helped by a sharp rise in the trade surplus and comments from a policymaker suggesting limits to cool house prices may be eased as interest rates rise.
The euro, whose slide has been the main focus of this week’s trade in major currencies, extended its losses into a third straight day. It found support at lower levels with traders unwilling as yet to believe that the European Central Bank will follow through on hints of more monetary policy easing.
The euro fell to a near one-year low against the high-flying New Zealand dollar, which hit a 2-1/2 year high of $0.8680, up 0.9 percent on the day.
“The trade surplus is supportive, but we have also had comments from the RBNZ’s Spencer, discussing under what conditions they might decide to remove the macroprudential measures on housing,” said Ian Stannard, a strategist with Morgan Stanley in London.
“That may let inflation rise and also suggests that they might tighten policy as well.”
The country’s trade surplus was the highest ever for February and the biggest since April 2011, helped by a rise in dairy exports to China.
Deputy Governor of the Reserve Bank of NZ, Grant Spencer, said the limits on low deposit, high risk home loans were worth up to 50 basis points in interest rate hikes, which began to rise from record lows earlier this month.
He also said the lending limits, imposed in October, had reduced upwards pressure on the New Zealand dollar, and stressed that they were not intended to be permanent.
The Norwegian crown rose to a 10-day high against the euro after the country’s central bank kept its rate path unchanged for 2014 and 2015, wrongfooting some investors who had expected it to flag the chance of looser monetary conditions.
“We expect the economy to bottom out the coming quarters and believe that today’s message from Norges Bank definitively will put an end to rate-cut speculation for now,” Danske Bank analysts said in a note.
“Hence, relative rates as well as the inflation outlook still support the case for a lower euro/Norwegian crown in the coming six to 12 months.”
The euro was weak against a host of other currencies, falling to a three-week low against the pound > and the dollar, with investors wary amid some expectations that the ECB may take action to weaken the currency.
Bundesbank chief Jens Weidmann sent a shockwave through currency markets on Tuesday by appearing to tone down the German central bank’s long held resistance to emergency measures to further ease monetary conditions in the euro zone.
But until the ECB takes action the euro is likely to find support. Traders said there was talk of bids from a central bank at around $1.3740/50. The euro was at $1.3755, down 0.2 percent on the day.
Weidmann said that negative interest rates were an option and quantitative easing was not out of the question while ECB chief Mario Draghi emphasised again that the bank was ready to act if inflation came in lower than it expected.
That puts fresh focus on euro zone consumer price data due on Monday, which economists expect to show subdued inflation of 0.7 percent, below the ECB’s annual inflation forecast of 1 percent this year.
The yen touched a one-week high of 101.71 yen against the dollar, drawing some support from renewed concerns over Ukraine after U.S. President Barack Obama’s tough talk on Russia on Wednesday. But it gave up those gains in the Europe.
The dollar was up 0.2 percent at 102.24 yen. (Additional reporting by Anirban Nag; Editing by Catherine Evans)