May 4, 2012 / 2:00 AM / in 6 years

Dollar steady before U.S. jobs; euro above two-week low

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - The dollar held steady versus the yen and euro on Friday, but could face downside risks if U.S. jobs data disappoints and stirs renewed speculation about further monetary easing from the Federal Reserve.

A bank clerk counts U.S. dollar banknotes on bundles of 100 Chinese yuan banknotes at a branch of a bank in Huaibei, Anhui province April 26, 2012. REUTERS/Stringer

The euro was little changed at $1.3156, having bounced off the previous day’s two-week low after European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi on Thursday gave no strong hints about the possibility of more monetary stimulus.

After the ECB kept rates steady at 1 percent as expected and an uneventful Spanish bond auction on Thursday, focus now shifts to U.S. jobs data later on Friday as well as elections in France and Greece on Sunday.

The U.S. payrolls report is expected to show a gain of 170,000 in April, according to a Reuters poll of economists.

A disappointing result is seen likely to put the dollar under pressure.

“We’ve gone back to that situation where when the weaker data comes out, we start to price in more chance of QE3 and therefore the dollar goes weaker,” said Rob Ryan, FX strategist at BNP Paribas in Singapore, referring to the possibility of the Fed launching another bond-buying program.

The dollar held steady versus the yen at 80.17 yen, staying above a 10-week low of 79.64 yen hit on Tuesday on trading platform EBS.

Yen-related flows are likely to be thinner than usual with Japanese markets closed on Friday for a public holiday.

Traders say market positioning bodes ill for the dollar against the yen since currency speculators are still thought to be holding hefty short positions in the yen, suggesting the yen could surge against the dollar if such bets are unwound.

Data released last week showed that currency speculators held a net short position in the yen of 55,903 contracts in the week ended April 24. That is not far from 67,622 contracts logged in late March, which was the biggest in almost five years.

Some traders say the dollar could drop towards 77 yen to 78 yen in the near term if U.S. jobs data comes in weak.

Besides the U.S. jobs data, the euro faces additional event risk from elections in France and Greece on Sunday, the results of which could stir worries about the countries’ commitment to fiscal austerity.

Francois Hollande, front-runner and first-round winner in the French presidential race, has promised to shift the debate in Europe towards promoting growth if he is elected.

In Greece, surveys showed no clear winner emerging from the elections, with the two main parties garnering barely enough seats for a parliamentary majority.

Either the two main parties will secure just enough to work together, or steps will have to be taken to form a broad coalition with minor parties firmly opposed to the European Union’s austerity measures.

Not all are convinced that the election results will pose an immediate downside risk to the euro, however.

“Most people at this stage know that there is going to be some turmoil out of Greece to some extent,” said BNP Paribas’ Ryan.

Editing by Ed Davies

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