* US dollar comes off nearly 3-month high vs euro
* German help for neighbors eyed; Merkel avoids details
* Yen pressured due to worries about Japan's economy
* BOJ keeps interest rates unchanged at 0.10 pct
* Goldman recommends going long euro vs dollar (Updates prices, adds detail)
By Steven C. Johnson
NEW YORK, Feb 19 (Reuters) - The U.S. dollar fell against the euro on Thursday as hopes that Germany may step in to help weaker European economies whetted investors' appetite for risk while Japan's economic woes continued to pressure the yen.
Though a late slide on Wall Street knocked it off session highs, the euro still ended the day well in the black, and analysts said a dive earlier this week near a three-month low against the dollar provided a buying opportunity.
"There's a lot of bargain hunting going on plus a little bit better risk appetite across the board," said Boris Schlossberg, director of FX research at GFT Forex in New York.
Elsewhere, the dollar rose to a fresh six-week high above 94 yen after the Bank of Japan extended commercial paper purchases to support the world's second largest economy, mired in its deepest slump in more than three decades.
Late afternoon, the euro was up 1 percent at $1.2660 <EUR=>, below a session peak of $1.2759 but well above a three-month low of $1.2511 touched on Wednesday. The euro was up 1.4 percent at 119.38 yen <EURJPY=>.
Sterling rose 0.4 percent to $1.4277 <GBP=> while the dollar changed hands at 94.28 yen <JPY=> after the Bank of Japan left its key policy rate unchanged at 0.10 percent on Thursday, as expected. The Japanese currency had earlier risen to 94.46 yen, its highest level since Jan. 6.
Japan reported earlier this week that the economy shrank at its fastest pace since 1974 in the last three months of 2008.
With government approval ratings sinking, "the market is starting to realize that there's no fundamental reason to buy the yen," said Melvin Harris, market strategist at Advanced Currency Markets in New York.
Strength in the euro was sparked after German Finance Minister Peer Steinbrueck indicated this week that euro zone countries may be forced to help a fellow member state if it encountered serious financial problems.
Markets took that as a signal that help may be on the way for some struggling Eastern European economies, which have seen capital flows and credit dry up amid a severe economic slump.
The euro came under heavy pressure this week after two credit ratings agencies warned of a severe recession in emerging Europe, stoking concerns about the exposure of euro zone banks to the region.
But a bounce in Central and Eastern European currencies on Thursday, which clawed back some of this week's steep losses, was cited as a positive for the euro.
Goldman Sachs in a note to clients on Thursday recommended buying the euro against the dollar at current levels with a target of $1.35, saying Eastern Europe's woes and the threats it poses to the euro zone have been priced in by the market.
But at a press conference on Thursday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel declined to speculate on what kind of help Germany might provide, and some analysts said the euro's was likely to fade in the short run. For more, see [ID:nBEB002318]
"Everyone is relying on Germany to do something dramatic to help Europe but there's really a limit to how much they can do," Harris said. "We look for the euro to head back toward $1.25 in the days ahead."
(Additional reporting by Wanfeng Zhou; Editing by Diane Craft)