* Euro resilient despite S&P’s downgrade of Portugal
* Australian dlr hits 2011 high vs USD, 29-yr high in sight
* Dlr/yen rises on demand from macro funds
(updates prices, adds quotes)
By Jessica Mortimer
LONDON, March 25 (Reuters) - The euro shrugged off concerns about a debt crisis in Portugal on Friday, supported by steady buying by Asian central banks, while the Australian dollar hovered near a 29-year peak versus the U.S. dollar.
Solid support for the euro was seen around $1.4140, helping it recover from losses after Standard & Poor’s downgraded Portugal’s credit ratings and warned it could cut it again, with analysts saying Portugal’s troubles had mostly been priced in. [ID:nL3E7EO3OJ]
The euro was also helped by a survey of German business sentiment which was not as weak as expected. [ID:nBAE003896] Any gains were expected to be limited, however, keeping the euro below a barrier at $1.4250, which traders said was being strongly defended. But technical analysts said a weekly close above $1.4200 would leave it well positioned for a further rise.
Analysts said there were also hopes for some positive signals from an EU summit, which has been clouded by a political crisis in Portugal, where the prime minister resigned after parliament voted down his latest batch of austerity measures. [ID:nLDE72O009]
“This week’s high near $1.4250 is likely to act as resistance at least for today,” said Jane Foley, senior strategist at Rabobank. “In the absence of a new wave of fears concerning Spain, the euro looks to be dismissing the Portuguese crisis as a sideshow.”
The single currency has stayed supported by expectations the European Central Bank will raise interest rates as early as April, boosting its yield advantage over the dollar.
The euro EUR= was flat at $1.4170, rebounding from lows on on buying by Asian sovereign names. The euro could target a 4 1/2-month high of $1.4249 hit earlier in the week, and beyond that $1.4283, a peak in early November.
European leaders agreed on Thursday to increase their financial rescue fund to the full 440 billion euros by June, but avoided discussing Portugal, which is under growing pressure to seek a bailout. [ID:nLDE72O009]
A marked improvement in risk appetite and growing demand for dollar-funded carry trades saw higher-yielding currencies gain.
The higher-yielding Aussie flew to a 2011 high of $1.0255 AUD=D4, just shy of its 29-year peak of $1.0257. Traders cited stops above $1.0260, with option expiries at $1.0200. Traders said model funds were adding to long positions in the currency as were real money accounts.
The dollar index, which measures the dollar’s value against a currency basket, was up 0.1 percent at 75.836 .DXY, not far above 75.340 hit earlier this week, its lowest since December 2009.
The dollar rose against the yen on reported demand from macro funds with one trader also citing buying by Japanese investors that helped the pair break through stops at 81.10 yen. The dollar was up 0.3 percent at 81.24 yen JPY=, but any rise is expected to be capped by reported offers at 81.30-45 yen, with resistance also coming from the 21-day moving average at 81.39 yen. That was well above a record low of 76.25 yen hit last week.
Joint intervention by the Group of Seven industrialised nations to sell the yen to contain its surge versus the dollar and other currencies has stabilised the FX market.
“The relative stability of the yen since intervention will please the Japanese authorities, and reduces the risk of further intervention in the near term,” said Lee Hardman, currency economist at Bank of Tokyo Mitsibushi.
“We continue to believe that the Japanese authorities have not set an explicit line in the sand, commonly perceived to be around the 80 yen level, which would trigger intervention — rather, it would require yen gains to accelerate markedly again to prompt renewed intervention.”
There is a possibility that the yen could gain in the coming week as inflows ahead of the Japanese fiscal year-end on March 31 pick up. Japanese exporters usually sell the dollar ahead of the financial year. (Additional reporting by Anirban Nag; Editing by Hugh Lawson/Ruth Pitchford)