April 19, 2019 / 2:18 AM / a month ago

Dollar steadies after upbeat U.S. data amid holiday-thin trade

TOKYO (Reuters) - The dollar steadied against a basket of currencies on Friday after hitting a 2-1/2-week high overnight as data pointed to a sturdy U.S. economy, while the euro was dented by weak manufacturing activity in Europe.

An employee counts U.S dollar bills at a money exchange office in central Cairo, Egypt, March 20, 2019. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany

Many financial markets were closed for the Good Friday Easter holiday. Currency markets remain open but volume is expected to be light.

The dollar index, which measures the greenback against a basket of six other major currencies, rose to as high as 97.485 overnight, its highest level since April 2. It last traded at 97.392 on Friday, down 0.1 percent on the day.

U.S. retail sales increased by the most in 1-1/2-years in March as households boosted purchases of motor vehicles and a range of other goods, the latest indication that economic growth picked up in the first quarter after a false start.

The economy’s strength was reinforced by other data on Thursday showing the number of Americans filing applications for unemployment benefits dropped to the lowest in nearly 50 years last week.

“In addition to the recent upticks in Chinese data, the latest U.S. retail sales numbers have helped to ease investor worries about the global economy. It’s pretty quiet trading due to the Easter holiday, though,” said Masahiro Ichikawa, senior strategist at Sumitomo Mitsui DS Asset Management.

The picture was less bullish in the euro zone as data on Thursday showed that activity in Germany’s manufacturing sector shrank for a fourth straight month in April.

The euro fell against the dollar to as low as 1.1226, its lowest level in 1-1/2 weeks, after the worse-than-expected data from the Europe’s largest economy.

The single currency was last up 0.1 percent against the U.S. dollar at $1.1242, up 0.1 percent on the day.

In contrast, the weak European data pushed the yen higher to its one-week high of 111.765 yen at one point on late Thursday. The yen last stood at 111.935 yen to the dollar, within the recent narrow range.

The release of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russia’s role in the 2016 U.S. election had little impact on markets.

Reporting by Tomo Uetake; Editing by Kim Coghill

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