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FOREX-Euro off lows but capped by wariness over Greek vote

* Euro inches higher after pushing close to more than 2-year lows

* 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 euro inched away from more than two-year lows but remained on tenterhooks as investors awaited a key vote in Greece later in the session, while the dollar treaded water in its final week of a strong 2014.

Activity is likely to be thin this week ahead of the New Year’s holiday and as many investors have already closed out their positions for the year. Japanese markets will be shut from Dec. 31-Jan. 2 and reopen on Jan. 5.

Later on Monday, Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras faces a vote in parliament 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.

“The possibility of a worrying outcome in Greece is a potentially risk-off factor, as is the possibility of an Ebola case in Japan,” said Ayako Sera, senior market economist at Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Bank.

A man in his thirties who returned from Sierra Leone on Dec. 23 was suspected on contracting the disease, the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare said. Test results are expected by Tuesday morning. If confirmed, it would be the first case of the Ebola virus in Asia.

“Until there is confirmation, the Ebola case possibility is another factor weighing on risk in a very thin market,” Sera said.

The dollar edged lower on the day against the euro, which added about 0.1 percent to $ 1.2190. The euro earlier fell as low as $ 1.2168, just a few ticks above last week’s 28-month low of $ 1.2165 and on track for a yearly loss of more than 11 percent.

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.

While investors are betting the euro will fall against the dollar next year on speculation grows that the European Central Bank will ease monetary policy more aggressively, it may not depreciate at all against currencies of other major trading partners.

The final U.S. data reports of the year will also be in focus this week, 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 steady on the day at 120.30 yen, within sight of its 7-1/2-year high of 121.86 set earlier this month and posed to gain more than 14 percent in 2014.

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.

(Editing by Edmund Klamann & Kim Coghill)

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