Sun, May 07, 2006 - Page 10 News List

US dollar drops to lowest level versus euro since last May

AFP AND CNA , NEW YORK AND TAIPEI

The euro rose to a one-year high against the US dollar on Friday after US data showed far fewer jobs were created last month than expected, dealers said.

At 9pm GMT, the euro stood at US$1.2726 from US$1.2692 late on Thursday in New York. Earlier the European currency reached US$1.2765, its highest level since May 12 last year.

The US dollar fell to ?12.46, its lowest point against the Japanese currency since September, from ?13.66 on Thursday.

The US Labor Department data showed that US job creation weakened last month to its slowest pace since after Hurricane Katrina last year, but wages took off in a warning sign for the Federal Reserve.

According to the department's "non-farm payrolls" report, US employers added 138,000 new jobs last month, the worst level since October and much less than Wall Street's forecast of 200,000.

The jobless rate was unchanged last month at 4.7 percent, but average hourly earnings are now up 3.8 percent in the past year, the biggest year-over-year gain since August 2001, the department said.

"It was the worst of both worlds -- slower growth and rising inflationary threats," said Ashraf Laidi, chief currency analyst at MG Financial Group.

"Today's report should support the [dollar's] current sell-off, paving the way for further declines on the basis of escalating chances of a June pause in rates," Laidi added.

The Federal Reserve is expected to stage its 16th consecutive rate hike when it next meets on Wednesday.

But the outlook for US monetary policy after then is less clear, with Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke last month hinting at a pause in the hikes "at some point in the future."

The effect of the weak data on the dollar was exacerbated by a strong signal from the European Central Bank on Thursday that it would raise eurozone interest rates next month, dealers said.

T.J. Marta, a senior currency strategist at RBC Capital Markets, said that aside from next week's Fed meeting, traders would scrutinize data showing the US trade balance for March next Friday.

All indications are pointing to a "negative number" on the massive US deficit, Marta said.

"If the Fed comes out dovish and the trade balance comes out worse, the dollar could really get hurt," he said.

The US currency has fallen about 5.2 percent against the euro and 4.5 percent against the yen since last month.

The British pound bought US$1.8588 at 9pm GMT, from US$1.8519.

The US dollar was changing hands at 1.2265 Swiss francs from SF1.2290.

The greenback lost ground against the New Taiwan dollar on the Taipei Foreign Exchange on Friday, decreasing NT$0.043 to close at NT$31.646.

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