By Chuck Mikolajczak
NEW YORK (Reuters) - The yen strengthened sharply against the dollar on Monday in the wake of comments from Bank of Japan (BOJ) Governor Kazuo Ueda that fueled expectations the central bank could shift away from its negative interest rate policy, while the greenback eased ahead of U.S. inflation data due later in the week.
The dollar was last 1.01% weaker at 146.31 against the Japanese currency after earlier dropping about 1.3% to 145.89, its lowest since Sept. 1 after comments over the weekend from Ueda that the BOJ could end its negative interest rate policy if it is determined the inflation target can be achieved.
The dollar softened ahead of U.S. inflation data due on Wednesday, with the Federal Reserve widely expected to pause its interest rate hikes at its policy meeting next week, but additional hikes still on the table for this year should data indicate the economy and inflation are not cooling fast enough.
"It seems that while signaling that they could be closer to abandoning negative rates at year end if a major shift, we still have a long way to get there," said Edward Moya, senior market analyst at Oanda in New York of Ueda's comments.
"In following some of the past BOJ interventions, they don't want to waste their ammunition when the other side of the trade, driven by the US economy, could be upended. That is why they had to go jawboning, they had to go verbal intervention again."
Expectations the Fed will hold rates steady next week stand at 93%, according to CME's FedWatch Tool, with about 39% chance of a 25 basis point hike for the November meeting.
Aside from data on consumer prices due Wednesday, investors will also see producer prices and retail sales numbers on Thursday.
The yen has come under pressure against the dollar as the BOJ remains a dovish outlier among global central banks, especially since the Federal Reserve began its aggressive rate-hike cycle last year.
Traders have been closely watching for any signs of intervention from Japan to shore up the yen since it weakened past the 145 per dollar threshold last month. A year ago, that level resulted in the first yen-buying intervention by the authorities since 1998.
The dollar index, which measures the U.S. currency against peers including the yen, was last down 0.32% to 104.51, after falling to 104.41, its lowest since Sept. 5. The dollar has climbed for eight straight weeks.
Against the softer dollar, sterling gained 0.5% to $1.2527, continuing to recover from a three-month low of $1.2445 hit last week. The euro gained 0.43% to $1.0745.
(Reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak; Editing by Mark Potter)
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