FOREX-Dollar on track for eighth month of gains on US data, Fed outlook

* Dollar index eases from previous day’s 1-month high

* U.S. Jan CPI, durables goods data raise rate-hike bets

* Fed’s Bullard, Williams keep alive hopes of higher rates (Recasts, adds comment, details)

By Anirban Nag

LONDON, Feb 27 (Reuters) – The dollar index slipped on Friday, pegged back by month-end selling, but was still on track for its eighth straight month of gains on better data and comments from Federal Reserve officials that bolstered bets for a rate rise this year.

The index, which measures the dollar’s performance against major currencies, was set to mark its longest streak of monthly gains since the greenback was floated as a fiat currency in 1971.

On the day however, the index was off 0.2 percent at 95.124, having hit a one-month high of 95.357 on Thursday. The index had rallied 1.1 percent on Thursday, bringing it close to the more than 11-year high of 95.481 struck on Jan. 23.

Data released on Thursday showed U.S. core consumer price index, which excludes food and energy costs, rose 0.2 percent in January, more than the 0.1 percent increase economists had expected.

U.S. durable goods orders also rose 2.8 percent in January.

“It is the data, especially core inflation and durable goods, that is catching attention. We are still calling for a June rate hike and the market is not pricing that. They are looking for a hike much later. So yes, we think the dollar will outperform,” said Hamish Pepper, strategist at Barclays.

He added that month-end hedging flows were also playing a role on Friday. A Barclays note said rebalancing of hedges by stocks and bonds investors at month-end would lead to decent amounts of dollar selling against major currencies.

That was because U.S. stock markets rose much more than some of its global peers, while moves in bond markets were rather limited, they said. A Citi note echoed that view.

The dollar eased 0.1 percent against the yen to 119.30 yen , but remained above Thursday’s low of 118.68 yen.

San Francisco Fed President John Williams and St. Louis Fed chief James Bullard both suggested on Thursday that the U.S. central bank might end its near zero interest rate policy sooner than some traders expect.

The dollar’s dip gave the euro a breather. It edged up 0.15 percent to $ 1.1215, but was not far from a one-month low of $ 1.1184 touched on Thursday.

The euro was down 0.6 percent for the month as German Bund yields tumbled with investors bracing for the European Central Bank asset-purchase programme to start next month.

“ECB QE is going to cap any euro rebound. But I think the catalyst for next leg lower in the euro will come from the dollar side of the story,” said Sim Moh Siong, FX strategist for Bank of Singapore.

(additional reporting by Masayuki Kitano)

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