May 6, 2013 / 12:42 AM / 6 years ago

Dollar firms, stock rally pauses after U.S. data

LONDON (Reuters) - The dollar edged up against the yen on Monday and stocks held near last week’s multi-year highs thanks to a brighter outlook for the U.S. economy generated by last week’s strong employment data.

Office workers are reflected on a screen displaying share prices as they walk past the Australian Securities Exchange building in central Sydney September 23, 2011. REUTERS/Daniel Munoz

Stock index futures pointed to a mixed day ahead for Wall Street, though this follows steep gains on Friday in the wake of the payrolls report that took the Dow and S&P 500 indexes to new closing highs.

Brent crude oil futures hit their highest level in nearly a month after Israeli air strikes on Syria on Friday and Sunday highlighted risks to supplies from the Middle East.

With Tokyo and London closed for holidays, trading volumes were generally thin across all other markets.

The main moves were in the dollar against the yen, where Friday’s U.S. jobs data eased fears of a slowdown in the world’s largest economy, setting the stage for the greenback to re-test the 100 yen level. It rose slightly to 99.25 yen on Monday.

“The U.S. does seem to be in a cyclical recovery. It is outperforming all the rest of the major economies globally, and that can’t be ignored,” said Greg Matwejev, director of FX, Hedge Fund Sales and Trading for Newedge.

“We’ve probably got a better chance at making a crack at 100 now, and I wouldn’t be surprised in the coming sessions that we do see that happen.”

The dollar was up 0.2 percent at 99.25 yen by lunchtime in Europe, extending Friday’s 1-percent gain. The yen has fallen steadily since the Bank of Japan announced a massive plan last month to boost the Japanese economy.

U.S. employment rose more than expected in April, with 165,000 jobs created, and hiring was much stronger than thought in the previous two months. This eased concerns raised by other data which had pointed to the U.S. economy losing steam.

The dollar’s rise was being helped by U.S. Treasury bond yields which jumped in reaction to the jobs report. The 10-year note yield was at 1.74 percent on Monday, having posted its biggest single-day rise since September 14 on Friday.


Further evidence of the relative outperformance of the U.S. economy emerged on Monday when a gauge of China’s service sector, which accounted for 46 percent of gross domestic product in 2012, showed activity slowing in April.

The HSBC services Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) fell to 51.1 in April from 54.3 in March; new orders expanded more slowly than for 20 months and staffing levels fell for the first time since January 2009.

Separately, an updated reading on business conditions across the euro zone last month signaled that the debt-laden region may be falling deeper into recession.

The Markit Eurozone Composite PMI, which gauges activity across thousands of companies, also showed Germany is now suffering a contraction in business activity that has long dogged France, Italy and Spain.

“The PMI suggests that, having eased in the first quarter of the year, the euro zone’s economic downturn is likely to have gathered momentum again in the second quarter,” said Chris Williamson, chief economist at Markit.

German Bund futures crept higher on the gloomy picture painted of the euro zone economy by the data, with the June contract 17 basis points up on the day at 146.32.

The euro was down 0.1 percent at $1.3104 after the data, well below last week’s two-month high of $1.3243.

Analysts said the currency could drop further after the European Central Bank President Mario Draghi said last week that the bank was ready to cope with the consequences of cutting its deposit rate below the current 0.0 percent.

Such a move would effectively mean charging banks to leave money overnight at the ECB, encouraging them to lend more and support the recession-hit euro zone.

“The risks are now tilted to the downside for euro/dollar and it could test $1.30,” said Arne Lohmann Rasmussen, head of FX research at Danske Bank.

The prospect of further ECB rate cuts was supporting European stock markets, though the London holiday limited activity.

The euro zone’s blue chip Euro STOXX 50 index was down 0.5 percent at 2,748 points, edging away from a near-two year peak of 2,764.17 hit after the U.S. jobs data.

A rise in MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan of nearly one percent, led by gains in Australia’s main share index, left the MSCI world equity index virtually unchanged.


Commodities mostly added to their recent gains on the U.S. jobs report but oil gained extra momentum from developments in the Middle East.

Brent crude was up 0.4 percent to $104.60 a barrel, after Israel’s bombing near Damascus.

Israeli officials have said the raids were aimed at stopping Lebanon’s Hezbollah, like the Syrian government an ally of Iran, from acquiring longer-range weapons. Iran has urged the region to unite against Israel, though Israeli officials are counting on avoiding an escalation of the conflict.

U.S. oil traded up 61 cents at $96.22, after ending Friday with gains of around 1.7 percent.

Additional reporting by Jessica Mortimer; Editing by David Stamp and Alastair Macdonald

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