Dollar drops on jobs data, euro sinks before elections

NEW YORK Fri May 4, 2012 4:30pm EDT

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

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.

Credit: Reuters/Stringer

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The dollar slid against the yen but rallied against currencies linked to global growth on Friday, as investors sought safety after U.S. jobs data provided further evidence the economic recovery was losing momentum.

A third straight monthly decline in U.S. hiring growth also weighed on the euro, which fell for a fifth straight session against the greenback and tumbled against the yen, ahead of the weekend's key political elections in France and Greece.

U.S. employers added 115,000 workers last month, well below expectations of 170,000. The data followed a string of weak readings on the economy that fueled speculation of more monetary stimulus from the Federal Reserve.

"On balance, it was a disappointing report," said Vassili Serebriakov, currency strategist at Wells Fargo in New York. "It looks like it's kind of a risk-off environment where the yen is doing well."

The dollar was down 0.4 percent at 79.84 yen while the Australian and New Zealand dollars fell 0.7 percent and 0.5 percent, respectively, against the greenback as investors shed riskier currencies that are highly correlated to global growth.

Some analysts said the jobs data, combined with recent weaker-than-expected data on the services sector and first-quarter economic growth, may spur the Federal Reserve to embark on a third round of bond buying to spur growth.

Others downplayed the scenario of further so-called quantitative easing, but said it should make the central bank maintain the policy status quo.

Economists at most major Wall Street firms still see about a one in three chance the U.S. Federal Reserve will launch another massive round of monetary stimulus, a Reuters poll on Friday showed.

Currency speculators, meanwhile, reduced their bets in favor of the U.S. dollar for a third straight week in the latest week, according to data from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission released on Friday.

The dollar's long positioning, or bets on the currency's rise, was the lowest since the week ended March 20.

EURO SWOONS BEFORE ELECTIONS

The euro fell as low as $1.3078, its lowest since April 19, and last traded at $1.3084, down 0.5 percent. Against the yen, the euro was down 0.9 percent at 104.48.

The most immediate risk for the euro comes from this weekend's French and Greek elections. Opinion polls showed socialist Francois Hollande will be elected as the next French president.

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

"We have been focused on the short euro/dollar trade over the last two weeks, and it is starting to work," said Jens Nordvig, global head of foreign exchange strategy at Nomura Securities in New York.

"A Hollande victory could be a catalyst for additional weakness, depending on what he says, and a split parliament in Greece would also be a negative," he said. "We think a break of $1.30 is highly likely in coming weeks."

An increased bias for euro puts, or bets on a currency depreciating, was evident in the options market, with three-month risk reversals trading at -2.6 vols, up from -2.3 vols the previous day and -2.1 vols last week.

(Additional reporting by Wanfeng Zhou; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)