* Graphic: World FX rates in 2019 tmsnrt.rs/2egbfVh
By Saikat Chatterjee
LONDON, Jan 17 (Reuters) - The Australian dollar and its emerging market counterparts gained on Friday as Chinese data showed pressure on the world’s second-biggest economy may be starting to diminish, with the offshore yuan rising to a six-month high against the greenback.
Though China’s economy grew 6.0% in the December quarter from a year earlier, Beijing is widely expected to introduce more stimulus measures in 2020 while investment and demand remain sluggish. Chinese growth for all-2019 of 6.1% was the slowest in 29 years,
“December data signaled a strong finish for the Chinese economy and that suggests the Chinese economy may be primed for a rebound in 2020,” said Lee Hardman, a currency strategist at MUFG in London.
An index for emerging market currencies rose to its highest level since June 2018 while the Chinese currency in the offshore market rose 0.2% to 6.8636 yuan per dollar, its strongest level since July 2019.
“The Chinese data overnight offered some cause for optimism with the Phase 1 trade deal with the U.S. partially lifting the cloud of uncertainty hanging over the economy,” said Craig Erlam, senior market analyst at OANDA.
The Aussie is often traded as a liquid proxy for the Chinese yuan as the country’s small, open economy is heavily reliant on exports to China.
The local dollar and its New Zealand counterpart rose 0.2% against the dollar respectively.
But despite gains by emerging market currencies, the dollar held its ground against its rivals and was on track for a small weekly loss, with the dollar index tracking its strength against six of its major peers little changed at 97.31.
Recent data has been mildly supportive of the greenback.
U.S. retail sales increased for a third straight month in December, and the number of Americans filing claims for unemployment benefits dropped for a fifth straight week last week, showing that the labour market remained strong.
Elsewhere, the British pound weakened 0.2% at $1.3050 after worse-than-expected December retail sales.
Reporting by Saikat Chatterjee Editing by Hugh Lawson and Gareth Jones