FOREX-Dollar dips in wake of jobs data; ECB comments lift euro

Mon Apr 7, 2014 4:01pm EDT

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By Sam Forgione

NEW YORK, April 7 (Reuters) - The dollar fell against major currencies on Monday after last week's slightly lower-than-expected U.S. payrolls data, while European Central Bank policymakers' comments curbed expectations for more stimulus and boosted the euro.

U.S. employers added 192,000 jobs in March after adding 197,000 in February, the Labor Department said Friday. The unemployment rate was unchanged at 6.7 percent. Economists had expected a gain of 200,000 jobs last month.

The U.S. employment reading disappointed some who had bet that a stronger report would reinforce a Federal Reserve increase in interest rates, which would lift the dollar in the months ahead.

"There is a follow-through from last week," said Steven Englander, global head of G10 FX strategy at Citigroup Global Markets Inc. in New York. He said Friday's employment report supported the Fed's policy of keeping rates low, which has hurt the dollar.

Fed Chair Janet Yellen suggested in a press conference on March 19 that the U.S. central bank could raise interest rates earlier than expected. Overnight rates are currently near zero.

On Monday, comments from ECB policymakers Ewald Nowotny and Yves Mersch suggested more monetary easing from the central bank was not imminent, which lifted the euro against the dollar.

Nowotny said there was no need to act immediately to counter euro zone disinflation, while Mersch said that while the central bank was drawing up plans for large-scale asset purchases, it remained some way off.

"The ECB consistently says that certainly quantitative easing is on the table, but just because it is on the table doesn't mean it's going to be used," said Douglas Borthwick, managing director at Chapdelaine Foreign Exchange in New York. "The reality is that quantitative easing is not imminent."

The euro has been pressured since ECB governing council member and Bundesbank chief Jens Weidmann said on March 25 that negative interest rates would be more appropriate to use to counter a higher exchange rate.

At its April meeting in Frankfurt, the ECB opened the door to using quantitative easing and other monetary policies meant to rescue the euro zone from worringly low inflation.

Nowotny and Mersch's comments on Monday signaled that there was resistance to imminent quantitative easing, said Gilmore of Foreign Exchange Analytics.

The dollar also lost ground against the Japanese yen, having gained in the two weeks before Friday's payrolls numbers, in the wake of the U.S. jobs data. The prospect of more money-printing in Japan, however, limited Monday's moves as the Bank of Japan began its two-day policy meeting.

The U.S. dollar index, which measures the greenback against six major currencies, was last down 0.24 percent at 80.217. The euro was up 0.27 percent against the dollar to trade at $1.3742, while the dollar was down 0.13 percent against the yen at 103.155. The dollar hit a one-week low against the yen earlier in the session.

The dollar was also down 0.49 percent against the Swiss franc to trade at 0.8877 francs.

Traders bought the yen in anticipation that the Bank of Japan could surprise markets by not announcing additional stimulus measures, said Borthwick of Chapdelaine Foreign Exchange.

Traders also bought the yen for its safe-haven appeal given Monday's decline in U.S. stocks, said Englander of Citigroup Global Markets. All three major stock indexes fell on Monday, with the Standard & Poor's 500 last down 0.88 percent. (Additional reporting by Patrick Graham in London; Editing by Diane Craft)

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