Dollar steady after rocky reaction to US jobs data

February 8, 2014

San Francisco (Feb 8)  The dollar see-sawed after a weaker-than-expected U.S. jobs report on Friday that muddies the waters but is unlikely to dissuade the Federal Reserve from diverting from its path of steadily removing monetary stimulus from the U.S. economy.

U.S. nonfarm payrolls growth in January came in at a disappointing 113,000 against a consensus of 185,000, initially sending the greenback sharply lower. However, a bright spot in the report showed the proportion of working age Americans who have a job or are looking for one increased.

After a sharp decline against the euro in the immediate aftermath of the report, the dollar has gained back some ground, but still finds itself weaker. The euro rose 0.4 percent to $1.3630, after having dropped back from its session high $1.36490 on the EBS trading platform.

The reaction to the jobs report has been nuanced and mixed.

Nick Bennenbroek, head of currency strategy at Wells Fargo Securities in New York, said that as the market digested the data and looked to the next Fed meeting in mid-March, "the bar is pretty high for them to deviate from the path."

"You could argue the implications of today's report are not particularly clear cut for March's meeting and the path of Fed policy. Therefore we have the mixed reaction for the dollar," he said.

The jobs report was the second month of weak hiring, although the jobless rate did decline to 6.6 percent from 6.7 percent.

A second factor holding back the euro on Friday was Germany's constitutional Court's decision to refer a complaint against the European Central Bank's bond-buying program to the European Court of Justice.

The complaint says the ECB's plan, which pumps money into the financial system much the same way as the U.S. quantitative easing program, oversteps its mandate and violates a ban on it funding governments.

The ECB's Outright Monetary Transactions (OMT) program, announced by President Mario Draghi in September 2012 at the height of the sovereign debt crisis and as yet unused, is widely credited with pulling the euro zone back from the brink.

"The ECB has to quickly assess what repercussions the ruling will have for the range of tools available to calm markets," said Christian Schulz, senior economist at Berenberg. "Ironically, depending on the exact decision, the court may have made a much more wide-ranging quantitative easing program at the ECB more likely."

The euro traded up 0.5 percent to 139.47 yen. The dollar also advanced against the yen, after regaining ground from the initial sell-off after the jobs data. In midday New York trade the greenback rose 0.2 percent to 102.32 yen.

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