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FOREX-Dollar edges higher as virus restrictions unnerve investors

·2-min read

* Dollar inches higher, euro slips

* Most currencies little moved in quiet start to the week

* Graphic: World FX rates https://tmsnrt.rs/2RBWI5E

By Tommy Wilkes

LONDON, May 17 (Reuters) - The dollar edged higher on Monday as new COVID-19 restrictions in Asia and mixed economic data in China encouraged investors to stick with safer currencies.

The euro fell marginally while other major currencies remained in tight ranges in a quiet start to the week.

Bitcoin skidded to a three-month low after Tesla Inc boss Elon Musk suggested at the weekend that the car maker is considering selling or may have already sold some of its holdings in the cryptocurrency. It later recovered slightly.

Easing commodity prices and fresh virus outbreaks in Singapore and Taiwan - where COVID-19 had been contained - helped the U.S. dollar rise against the Australian and New Zealand dollars. The Singaporean and Taiwanese dollars also dropped, the latter by more than half a percent.

The greenback's performance against the euro and yen was less pronounced, but it remained above the recent lows hit before higher-than-expected U.S. inflation data last week.

While investor nervousness supported the dollar on Monday, analysts generally expect the greenback to weaken as investors bet on a further rebound in other economies as they reopen.

"The macro agenda this week might allow both the EUR and the GBP to regain further ground against the USD, should preliminary PMI surveys for May, to be released in both areas, offer further signs of optimism, especially in the service indices," said UniCredit analysts, referring to Purchasing Manager Index survey data due out on Friday.

Fed minutes, from an April meeting that predated the inflation data surprise last week, are due on Wednesday and are the next market focus for clues on the central bank's thinking.

"We expect the minutes ... to reiterate that policymakers consider the pick up in inflation to be transitory," said Kim Mundy, a currency strategist at the Commonwealth Bank of Australia in Sydney.

"The upshot is that we do not expect the (Fed) to consider tapering its asset purchases soon," she said. "The dollar is expected to resume its downtrend this week after last week's CPI-inspired boost."

Speculators increased their bets against the dollar last week, mostly by adding to bets on the euro and to a lesser extent sterling.

The pound held near a two-and-a-half-month high, at $1.4091, as Britain on Monday took a significant step in reopening its economy after a four-month lockdown.

The onshore yuan was little changed at 6.4380 per dollar after a mixed round of economic data showed China's industrial output had slowed and retail sales missed forecasts last month.

(Additional reporting by Tom Westbrook in Singapore and Stanley White in Tokyo; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)

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