By Steven C. Johnson
NEW YORK, July 19 (Reuters) - The dollar was little changed against the euro on Thursday, trading just above an all-time low, as concerns about the U.S. housing market and its impact on consumers continued to sour investors on the greenback.
A second day of testimony from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke provided added ammunition for dollar bears when he told the Senate Banking Committee that losses on subprime mortgages could hit $100 billion and curb consumer spending.
Bernanke began his semi-annual testimony on Wednesday, when he announced the Fed had trimmed growth forecasts for this year and next but reiterated that inflation is its top concern.
Markets interpreted that to mean the Fed probably won't cut benchmark interest rates this year despite a deepening housing slump but that hasn't provided much of a boost for the dollar.
Minutes from the Fed's June policy meeting released Thursday showed officials see the housing sector as the biggest risk to growth and core inflation as "relatively subdued."
"The underlying concern is still about housing and the market just doesn't want to let go of that concern right now," said Samarjit Shankar, director of global FX strategy at Mellon Financial Corp. in Boston.
Late afternoon, the euro <EUR=> traded at $1.3798, unchanged from the prior session and below a session peak of $1.3831. It hit a lifetime high at $1.3834 on Wednesday, according to electronic trading system EBS.
The dollar also slipped against the Australian dollar <AUD=>, which touched an 18-year peak at $0.8811.
But both the dollar and euro edged up against the yen <JPY=> <EURJPY=> as investors continued to shun the low-yielding Japanese currency in search of higher returns elsewhere.
Riskier asset classes such as corporate bonds, equities and emerging markets were steady to firmer on Thursday, while government bonds were unchanged.
"In general, global liquidity remains ample, yield-seeking behavior remains in place despite the odd bout of risk aversion now and then," Shankar said.
The dollar was last trading at 122.12 yen <JPY=>, up 0.2 percent. It pared earlier gains slightly after the Philadelphia Federal Reserve's July measure of business activity in the Mid-Atlantic region was surprisingly weak.
"There's a great deal of volatility in this number. But to the extent that it came in weaker than expected is consistent with the lower dollar trend," said Bob Lynch, head of G10 FX strategy at HSBC Bank USA, in New York.
Sterling was down 0.2 percent at $2.0480 <GBP=> after softer-than-expected UK retail sales data, coming further off a 26-year peak of $2.0548 hit on Wednesday.
Markets expect U.S. rates to remain on hold at 5.25 percent while the Bank of England and European Central Bank are seen raising rates in September, and that has helped support sterling and the euro.