* US dollar, yen higher on caution over economy, earnings
* China, euro zone data dent optimism for global recovery
* Higher-yielding Australian, New Zealand dollars decline (Adds comments, details, updates prices, changes byline)
By Nick Olivari
NEW YORK, April 16 (Reuters) - The U.S. dollar and the Japanese yen climbed against the euro on Thursday as weak economic data around the world undermined hopes for an imminent global economic recovery and boosted safe-haven flows.
The dollar and yen tend to rise on bad news because they are often seen as safer places to park money during periods of market uncertainty and heightened risk aversion.
In a sign that the world economy is still struggling, figures on Thursday showed China's annual economic growth slowed to its weakest rate on record in the first quarter, while euro zone industrial output plummeted in February.
U.S. housing starts and building permits both fell in March while continued claims for jobless benefits rose to a record high in early April as the recession bit and added to the gloom. For details see [ID:nN161166].
"The general theme is a slight rise in risk aversion that was triggered by the disappointing Chinese GDP data and soft euro zone economic figures overnight," said Omer Esiner, forex market analyst at Ruesch International in Washington, DC.
"This week's data in particular has poured some cold water on the idea of an imminent global recovery," he added.
In late afternoon New York trade, the dollar was little changed against the yen at 99.35 yen <JPY=> while the euro fell around 0.4 percent to 130.85 yen <EURJPY=>.
The yen also climbed against other major currencies, rising 0.3 percent against the Canadian dollar <JPYCAD=R>, 0.4 percent against the Swiss franc <JPYCHF=R> and 0.4 percent against the pound <JPYGBP=R>.
The euro <EUR=> was down 0.4 percent to $1.3170 after sliding to a session low of $1.3128, according to Reuters data.
While Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta President Dennis Lockhart said the U.S. recession should end by mid-year, with growth slowly picking up in the following months, it was not enough to offset the pessimism of the latest data. [ID:nWEQ000884]
Investor appetite for risk has picked up over the past month as a rally in stocks and higher-than-expected bank earnings fueled expectations that the financial sector and global economy may be past their worst.
But caution returned to the market this week as optimism over the global economy faded and the U.S. corporate earnings season went into full swing.
Companies due to release earnings results on Friday include Citigroup (C.N:Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) and General Electric (GE.N: Quote,Profile, Research, Stock Buzz). They follow better-than-expected earnings this week from JPMorgan Chase (JPM.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) on Thursday and Goldman Sachs (GS.N: Quote, Profile, Research,Stock Buzz).
The International Monetary Fund said the global recession is likely to be unusually long and severe and recovery sluggish. [ID:nN16252887]
"Risk appetite appears to be on the mend, but it's still very selective," said Samarjit Shankar, director of global foreign exchange strategy at the Bank of New York Mellon in Boston.
Shankar said while his firm's flow data showed solid buying of the Canadian dollar and the Norwegian crown, net selling of the Australian and New Zealand dollars remained in place.
The Australian dollar fell 1.2 percent to $0.7196 <AUD=> and the New Zealand dollar lost 1.8 percent to $0.5711 <NZD=>.
Overnight, official data showed China's annual economic growth slowed to 6.1 percent in the first quarter, slightly missing expectations of 6.3 percent. [ID:nPEK237287]
Separate figures showed euro zone industrial output plummeted by a record 18.4 percent year-on-year in February and inflation halved to an all-time low, reinforcing expectations that the euro zone economy is deteriorating and that interest rates may fall further. [ID:nLG654066]
A member of the European Central Bank's Governing Council, Nout Wellink, said on Thursday euro zone economic growth in the first quarter was not that good, but said the negative trend was starting to level off. [ID:nLG644332 (Additional reporting by Wanfeng Zhou; Editing by James Dalgleish)