Tokyo - The dollar slipped in Asia on Thursday ahead of the release of US retail sales data seen as key to gauging the strength of the world's biggest economy.

In late morning Tokyo trade, the greenback bought 102.31 yen, from 102.50 yen in New York on Wednesday.

The euro fetched $1.3610 and 139.25 yen, against $1.3593 and 139.33 yen, after dovish comments from a European Central Bank (ECB) board member.

With few trading cues, attention turned to the January US sales data later on Thursday after poor jobs figures cast doubt on the strength of the US recovery.

“(Retail sales) have been relatively stable, but the January outcome is forecast to be a little softer. The weather may play a part,” National Australia Bank said, referring to severe winter storms slamming the country.

“The weather distortions, both in the US (freezing/snow) and the UK (flooding) are likely to keep market participants, and central banks, guessing in regards to the real state of their respective economies for a little while.”

A strong result could indicate recent soft jobs data were caused by the weather and give the Federal Reserve's policy board more room to further reduce its stimulus programme when it meets in March, said Praevidentia Strategy's Masafumi Yamamoto. He said such a move could send the dollar back above 103 yen.

But if the numbers are bad, “people may start worrying about whether the Fed could keep its pace in tapering the bond-buying programme, putting the dollar in a 101-103 yen range”, he told Dow Jones Newswires.

On Tuesday, the Fed's new chief Janet Yellen pledged to maintain a wind-down of its monetary easing, but highlighted the jobs market was shaky.

The Fed could consider a pause in tapering if economic conditions show a significant deterioration, she added.

The dollar was given some support from Wednesday's better-than-expected Chinese trade data and news US lawmakers had agreed to lift the debt ceiling through March 2015, averting another painful Washington standoff that could have rattled markets.

The euro edged up after ECB board member Benoit Coeure hinted at fresh moves to support the struggling eurozone economy as industrial output in the bloc fell more than expected in December.

Output was down 0.7 percent from November when a 1.6 percent expansion had encouraged hopes that a modest recovery was gaining momentum. - AFP