February 14, 2018 / 12:38 PM / 3 months ago

FOREX-Dollar steadies as investors await US inflation data

* Yen hits 15-month high before falling back

* Euro flat at $1.2344

* Dollar has given up more than half of Feb gains

* Swedish crown sheds gains after Riksbank decision

* Graphic: World FX rates in 2018 tmsnrt.rs/2egbfVh

By Tommy Wilkes

LONDON, Feb 14 (Reuters) - The dollar hit a 15-month low against the yen but steadied against the euro on Wednesday, with investors nervous ahead of key U.S. inflation numbers due later amid a fragile recovery in equity markets.

The Swedish crown hit a six-day high after the country’s central bank said it saw an interest rate hike coming in the second half of the year, but the currency quickly gave up those gains.

The dollar, measured against a basket of currencies, has now given up more than half of the gains it notched up this month when investors rushed into the greenback as equity markets suffered a violent sell-off.

After trading up in early European trading, the euro slipped slightly to $1.2343, still off the lows of $1.2206 hit on Friday. The dollar index was flat after earlier weakening 0.1 percent.

“People looking for a big bounce in the dollar from the volatility spike must be feeling pretty depressed right now,” said Kit Juckes, chief FX strategist at Societe Generale in London, referring to the dollar’s losses in recent sessions.

He said that even if U.S. inflation numbers come in better than expected they would not lead to a sustained dollar recovery but a short-term gain.

“The dollar bulls have a weak hand right now, given where we are after the shake-out. The trouble with inflation numbers up now and further Fed hiking is that it just means a sugar rush before the end of the cycle and an earlier recession,” he said.

Worries about rising inflationary pressures - and the need for central banks to tackle them - sent markets into a tailspin this month.

U.S. January inflation data is due at 1330 GMT, and the numbers could either upset the equity market’s fragile recovery or clear the way for additional gains.

Strong German economic numbers for the fourth quarter of 2017 underlined the strength of the euro zone economy. The euro zone region also enjoyed stronger than expected industrial production in December but that failed to push the single currency higher on Wednesday.

SWEDISH CROWN GIVES UP GAINS

The Swedish crown rose as much as 0.4 percent to trade at 9.8750 crowns per euro, before giving up all of its gains. It was last trading at 9.9285 crowns per euro.

The Swedish currency has fallen steadily since 2015, but the Riksbank considers the currency overvalued during a period of extraordinarily loose monetary policy in which official interest rates have been left sub-zero and below those of the euro zone.

“We should see this from the perspective that Sweden’s central bank ... is still very dovish and very cautious not to move too aggressively ahead of the European Central Bank,” said Jan Bylov, Jyske bank strategist in Copenhagen.

“The Swedish crown is also being held back by less risk appetite following last week’s equity rout, so people are cautious.”

The yen rose as much as 0.8 percent to its highest since November 2016 versus the dollar as investors sought safety in the currency amid Japanese equity market falls. The yen later fell back to trade up 0.4 percent, at 107.36.

Sterling fell 0.2 percent to $1.3853 after a speech by Britain’s prominent pro-Brexit foreign minister Boris Johnson.

For Reuters Live Markets blog on European and UK stock markets see reuters://realtime/verb=Open/url=http://emea1.apps.cp.extranet.thomsonreuters.biz/cms/?pageId=livemarkets (Editing by William Maclean, Jon Boyle and Jane Merriman)

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