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FOREX-Dollar on firm footing as Greek vote pressures euro

* Euro close to more than 2-year lows, dollar steady vs yen

* Greek Prime Minister faces parliament vote, may bring elections

* U.S. data releases in focus in holiday-thinned market

By Lisa Twaronite

TOKYO, Dec 29 (Reuters) – The dollar began the final week of 2014 on firm footing on Monday, as the euro flirted with two-year lows while investors awaited a key vote in Greece later in the session.

Activity is likely to be thin this week ahead of the New Year’s holiday and many investors have already closed out their positions. The final U.S. data reports of the year will be in focus, including U.S. home prices on Tuesday and weekly jobless claims on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, the Conference Board will release its index on U.S. consumer confidence, which fell to 88.7 in November but was expected to show improvement.

“The index probably rebounded to close to the recovery-to-date high of 94.1 reached in October,” said Jim O’Sullivan, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics in Valhalla, New York.

Solid data is likely to reinforce the view that the U.S. economy is improving enough for the Federal Reserve to consider ending its near-zero interest-rate policy in mid-2015, in contrast to the still-sluggish economies of the euro zone and Japan where central bankers are likely to continue monetary easing.

The dollar was up about 0.1 percent at 120.42 yen, within sight of its 7-1/2-year high of 121.86 set earlier this month.

Top Japanese companies think the yen will not decline much further next year and may even stage a sizeable rebound despite the Bank of Japan’s easing policies and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s stimulus, a Reuters survey released on Monday showed.

The survey of 67 firms, of which 47 responded between Dec. 15 and 22, predicted an average 2015 low for the yen of 125 to the dollar, and a high of 112.

The dollar was steady against the euro at $ 1.2178 after the European unit fell as low as $ 1.2168 earlier in the session, just a few ticks above last week’s 28-month low of $ 1.2165.

Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras faces a vote in parliament later on Monday that will decide whether the country goes to snap elections that could bring the leftwing Syriza party to power and derail an international bailout.

Voting is due to start at midday (1000 GMT), with the result likely around an hour later.

But underpinning the single currency, Jens Weidmann, a member of the European Central Bank’s Governing Council and the president of Germany’s Bundesbank, told a newspaper on Sunday that growth in Germany – Europe’s biggest economy – might be better than expected next year, and that the situation in Europe is not as bad as many people think.

Weidmann is the most vocal opponent of quantitative easing, which some economists believe is the ECB’s last resort to revive the euro zone economy.

(Editing by Edmund Klamann)

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