* Dollar struggles as yields slide after soft jobs data
* Dollar/yen hits lowest level since Dec. 18
* Drop in dollar/yen gains steam after breaching Friday’s low
By Masayuki Kitano and Ian Chua
SINGAPORE/SYDNEY, Jan 13 (Reuters) - The dollar hit its lowest level in nearly a month versus the yen on Monday after surprisingly soft U.S. jobs data disappointed dollar bulls, with traders reassessing how quickly the Federal Reserve can scale back stimulus.
The dollar slid 0.6 percent to 103.48 yen, having fallen to 103.26 yen at one point, its lowest level since Dec. 18. The greenback’s losses accelerated after it breached Friday’s intraday low of 103.83 yen.
“With Tokyo players away today, the sense I get is that the market may be hunting for any stops left by people in Tokyo,” said a trader for a Japanese bank in Singapore, referring to stop-loss dollar offers. Japanese financial markets were closed on Monday for a public holiday.
The yen also pushed higher versus the euro, which fell 0.5 percent to 141.50 yen. The euro touched a low of 141.24 yen, its lowest level in nearly a month.
The dollar’s slide came after data on Friday showed U.S. employers hired the fewest workers in nearly three years in December.
The rise of 74,000 payrolls was well short of the 200,000 or so that most economists had expected, prompting a big slide in U.S. Treasury yields.
The implied yields on Fed funds futures also tumbled as markets pushed back the timing of the first interest rate hike out towards late-2015 from mid-2015.
The Singapore-based Japanese bank trader said that while the jobs data probably hasn’t led to any drastic change in the market’s view that the U.S. economy is on a recovery path, it was enough to spark a pull-back in the dollar.
“The market had been too bullish...and dollar/yen had been strong too. The market then got the type of factor that can trigger a corrective move,” the trader said.
With its drop on Monday, the dollar pulled further away from a five-year high of 105.45 yen set in early January.
The dollar index eased 0.2 percent to 80.525, adding to its 0.4 percent drop on Friday.
The euro held steady at $1.3675, staying above a one-month trough of $1.3548 plumbed on Thursday.
“The surprisingly weak headline payrolls print sparked a large switch in USD sentiment,” analysts at Barclays Capital wrote in a note to clients.
“Arguably, the recent improvement in data left the market vulnerably positioned for Friday’s release.”
The Australian dollar gained ground on the greenback and touched a one-month high of $0.9035. The Aussie dollar last fetched $0.9027, up 0.3 percent on the day.
The Canadian dollar struggled at near four-year lows against the greenback after data showed the country unexpectedly shed jobs last month.
The loonie, which fell in every session last week against its U.S. peer, last stood at C$1.0895 per dollar. The U.S. dollar had scaled a peak of C$1.0946 on Friday, the greenback’s strongest level since October 2009.