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Dollar stumbles after weak US jobs data, yen falls

A US one-hundred dollar bill and Japanese ¥10,000 notes are spread in Tokyo, in this February 28, 2013 picture illustration. — Reuters file picA US one-hundred dollar bill and Japanese ¥10,000 notes are spread in Tokyo, in this February 28, 2013 picture illustration. — Reuters file picNEW YORK, April 6 — The dollar dropped to a two-week low against the euro, as worse-than-expected US jobs data for March raised concerns that the pace of recovery in the American labour market has slowed.

Japan’s yen also extended its downward slide, hitting its worst levels against the dollar since June 2009 and a two-month trough against the euro. As trading volumes dried up heading into the weekend, the euro at one point was up more than 2 per cent on the Japanese currency.

Investors continued to dump the yen in the aftermath of the Bank of Japan’s massive stimulus announcement on Thursday, which should keep its downward trend intact.

The yen fell 3.4 per cent this week against the dollar, its worst week since December 2009. Against the euro, the yen slid 4.95 per cent, its worst weekly performance since November 2008.

But the weak US jobs number was the market’s focus yesterday. The employment report along with downbeat economic indicators in the manufacturing and service sectors earlier this week should ensure that the Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing policy will be in place for some time, analysts said.

“It is likely the debate about QE tapering will be put on the back burner for now as employment gains look to be losing momentum,” currency analysts at FOREX.com wrote yesterday.

Under QE, the central bank floods the market with cash through asset purchases, boosting the supply of the currency and therefore, weakening it. While that may theoretically weaken the dollar, some portfolio managers said this is not a reason to abandon the greenback just yet.

“This data interrupts the strong dollar trend against the euro for example, but medium-term, I am not convinced that this weakness in the dollar will continue,” said Federico Garcia Zamora, director of currency strategies and senior portfolio manager at Standish Asset Management in Boston. Standish manages $167 billion in assets.

“We had expected some softness in the jobs data; after all, recent reports had been printing weaker-than-expected numbers. But this is a minor pullback in the US economy and we’re going to see a slowdown in the next couple of quarters and then we will see growth picking up again in the last quarter of the year,” Zamora added.

US Labour Department data showed that the economy added just 88,000 non-farm jobs last month, well below the consensus forecast for a gain of 200,000.

In a separate survey, the unemployment rate inched lower to 7.6 per cent from 7.7 per cent the previous month, while January and February readings were revised upward to show that 61,000 more jobs were added.

Yesterday, the euro rose as high as US$1.3039 — its strongest level since March 25. In late New York trade, the euro changed hands at US$1.2998, up 0.49 per cent on the day and up 1.4 per cent this week — its best weekly showing since mid-January.

“The 61,000 additional jobs (for January-February) were not sufficient offsets,” said Marc Chandler, global head of foreign exchange strategy at Brown Brothers Harriman in New York. “Investors have also become more immune to the divergence with the unemployment rate. The unemployment rate ticked down ... as almost 500,000 people left the labor market.”

Against the yen, the dollar traded up 1.29 per cent at ¥97.57, just off the near four-year high of 97.83 in thin afternoon trade. This marked a sharp rebound from the ¥95.80 session low hit just after the US jobs report.

Analysts said the main driver for the dollar’s moves against the yen is still the BoJ’s monetary stimulus as the greenback was on track to hit the psychological ¥100 threshold.

“Investors’ mindset in trading dollar/yen is to buy it on dips,” said Brian Daingerfield, currency strategist, at RBS Securities in Stamford, Connecticut.

“We know that dollar/yen will continue to strengthen given what’s going on in Japan and the US payrolls report gave the market the perfect opportunity to buy it back at a lower level,” he added.

Overall, the greenback was up 12.6 per cent against the yen so far this year.

The euro settled around ¥126.85, a gain of 1.8 per cent on the day after having hit a peak of ¥127.29, the best showing since early February.

Also yesterday, the Mexican peso rose to a 19-month high against the dollar on market speculation of an upgrade to the country’s sovereign credit rating. The ratings agencies, as a practice, do not comment on market rumors.

The peso firmed almost 1 per cent to 12.1931 per dollar, breaking past the key 12.20 level to hit its strongest since August 2011.

Investors are more optimistic on Mexico given the new government’s economic reform plans and close proximity to a strengthening US economy, notwithstanding yesterday’s dismal jobs report. — Reuters

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