TOKYO  - The dollar strengthened against the yen in Asian trade on Friday afternoon, boosted by US economic data that pointed to signs of recovery and dollar-buying among Japanese importers.

The greenback changed hands at 79.41 yen, from 79.33 yen in late Thursday trade in New York, creeping above a one-month high of 79.40 yen.

The euro bought $1.2345 and 97.94 yen in Tokyo trade, weakening from $1.2358 and 98.06 yen in US trade.

Weekly numbers for new unemployment insurance claims, an indicator of the pace of layoffs, came in as expected and in the same range as the past four months, while July data on new housing construction, although slightly down from June, suggested the hard-hit sector was steadily picking up pace.

The greenback won support amid easing worries about the world’s largest economy and as long-term US Treasury yields rise, said Masafumi Yamamoto, chief forex strategist at Barclays Bank in Tokyo.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s supportive comments for the European Central Bank (ECB) and the embattled single currency helped boost it in Asian trade earlier Friday before it turned down in the afternoon.

On a visit to Ottawa on Thursday, Merkel appeared to back ECB President Mario Draghi’s vow to do everything possible to preserve Europe’s common currency.

Some traders saw the comments as evidence Merkel was warming to the idea of the ECB buying the debt of troubled eurozone countries if they meet tough conditions.

The dollar was mixed against other Asia-Pacific currencies.

It slipped to 55.74 Indian rupees from 55.94 rupees on Thursday, to 42.31 Philippine pesos from 42.37 pesos, to 9,500 Indonesian rupiah from 9,505 rupiah, and to 31.50 Thai baht from 31.55 baht.

The greenback rose to 1,134.40 South Korean won from 1,134.05 won, while it was flat at Sg$1.2520 and at Tw$29.99. The Australian dollar turned up to $1.046, off slightly from $1.048 while the Chinese yuan bought 12.46 yen against 12.42 yen.