Dollar gains on robust U.S. retail sales report

The dollar firmed against most major currencies on Monday after data revealed U.S. retail sales shot up in March, though concerns the crisis in Ukraine could escalate watered down the greenback's advance somewhat.

In U.S. trading on Monday, EUR/USD was down 0.50% at 1.3816.

The Commerce Department reported earlier that U.S. retail sales rose 1.1% in March, exceeding expectations for a 0.8% gain. Retail sales in February were revised up to a 0.7% increase from a previously estimated 0.3% rise.

Core retail sales, which exclude automobiles, rose 0.7% last month, beating expectations for a 0.5% reading, after a 0.3% gain in February

Consumer demand drives the bulk of U.S. economic output, and the numbers fueled expectations that the Federal Reserve will continue to wind down its monthly asset-purchasing program as the year unfolds.

Fed asset purchases, currently standing at $55 billion a month, weaken the greenback by suppressing borrowing costs to spur recovery, though talk of waning monetary intervention often strengthens the U.S. currency.

Elsewhere in the U.S., data revealed U.S. business inventories rose less than expected in February.

In a report, Census Bureau reported earlier that U.S. business inventories rose 0.4% in February from 0.4% in the preceding month.

Analysts were expecting a 0.5% reading in February.

Meanwhile across the Atlantic, the euro slid after ECB President Mario Draghi said Saturday that further gains in the euro would trigger additional monetary easing to keep consumer prices in comfort zones.

'A strengthening of the exchange rate requires further monetary stimulus. That is an important dimension for our price stability,' he said.

ECB governing council member and Bank of France governor Christian Noyer said Monday that a weaker euro is desirable, adding that the stronger the currency is the more 'accommodating' monetary policy needs to be.

Elsewhere, investors shrugged off data showing that industrial production in the euro area rose 0.2% in February from a month earlier, pushing the annual rate up to 1.7%.

Market expectations had been for an annual gain of 1.5% and a monthly increase of 0.2%.

Geopolitical concerns capped the dollar's advance and fueled demand for safe-haven gold positions.

Tensions between Russia and Ukraine mounted after a deadline set by Ukraine for pro-Russian separatists to exit government buildings they are occupying in the eastern reaches of the country expired on Monday.

The U.S. has indicated that it is prepared to impose more sanctions against Moscow if Russian encroachments in eastern Ukraine continue.

The dollar was up against the yen, with USD/JPY up 0.05% at 101.67, and up against the Swiss franc, with USD/CHF up 0.45% at 0.8799.

The greenback was up against the pound, with GBP/USD down 0.03% at 1.6724.

The dollar was mixed against its cousins in Canada, Australia and New Zealand, with USD/CAD down 0.11% at 1.0968, AUD/USD up 0.14% at 0.9411 and NZD/USD down 0.24% at 0.8670.

The US Dollar Index, which tracks the performance of the greenback versus a basket of six other major currencies, was up 0.34% at 79.83.

In the U.S. on Tuesday, Fed Chair Janet Yellen is to speak; her comments will be closely watched.