U.S. dollar advances on concerns over U.S. debt default risk, strong data

NEW YORK, May 25 (Xinhua) -- The U.S. dollar strengthened against a basket of other currencies on Thursday amid continuous concerns over possible U.S. debt default and upbeat macroeconomic and labor market data.

The dollar index, which measures the greenback against six major peers, rose 0.34 percent to 104.2424 in late trading.

U.S. House lawmakers are leaving Washington for the long holiday weekend on Thursday without a deal to raise the debt ceiling, but the two sides are just 70 billion U.S. dollars apart on a total figure that would be well over 1 trillion U.S. dollars, according to a Reuters source.

"The failure to reach a deal to raise or suspend the debt limit by the x-date would be a negative signal of the broader governance and willingness of the U.S. to honor its obligations in a timely fashion, which would be unlikely to be consistent with a 'AAA' rating," Fitch said.

Standard Chartered head of North American macro strategy Steve Englander said if the United States were going to default, "it would become dollar positive very quickly."

Moody's Investor Service believes that the U.S. dollar's dominance in international trade and finance will persist for decades despite new challenges. "The greatest near-term danger to the dollar's position stems from the risk of confidence-sapping policy mistakes by the U.S. authorities themselves, like a U.S. default on its debt for example," Moody's analysts wrote.

Moreover, the U.S. labor market continues to show signs of improvement as applications for first-time unemployment benefits beat market expectations for the second straight week.

The number of Americans filing for jobless claims for the week ending May 20 rose to 229,000 from 225,000 the week before but lower than 248,000 of forecast consensus, the U.S. Labor Department reported Thursday.

In addition, U.S. economic growth rate in the first quarter was revised to 1.3 percent, up from 1.1 percent in the initial estimate.

In late New York trading, the euro was down to 1.0722 dollars from 1.0750 dollars in the previous session, and the British pound was down to 1.2318 dollars from 1.2361 U.S. dollars in the previous session.

The U.S. dollar bought 139.9710 Japanese yen, higher than 139.1400 Japanese yen of the previous session. The U.S. dollar increased to 0.9063 Swiss francs from 0.9051 Swiss francs, and it rose to 1.3638 Canadian dollars from 1.3598 Canadian dollars. The U.S. dollar increased to 10.8328 Swedish Krona from 10.7255 Swedish Krona.

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