NEW YORK (Reuters) - The U.S. dollar was little changed against major currencies on Monday, supported by hopes U.S. job growth would pick up in the wake of last week’s mildly encouraging report on hiring and as tension over Ukraine remained contained.
Meanwhile, the Australian dollar declined against the greenback in the wake of a plunge in exports from China, stoking worries of further weakness in the world’s second biggest economy cutting into global growth.
“Despite some horrendous weather, the U.S. economy was reasonably resolute in February. We might get a strong (payroll) number in March,” said Alan Ruskin, global head of G10 currency strategy at Deutsche Bank in New York. “This is a more constructive view on the U.S. economy and the dollar.”
The dollar index .DXY was up 0.06 percent at 79.767, holding above four-month lows set prior to Friday’s U.S. jobs data that showed a greater-than-forecast 175,000 workers found jobs in February.
Speculators reduced their dollar holdings earlier last week before the employment data. They had trimmed their bullish bets on the dollar to their lowest in four months, according to data from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission released on Friday.
The U.S. payrolls report countered a drop-off in expectations of more policy easing from the European Central Bank to keep the yen, dollar and euro in tight ranges. Another bearish batch of figures from Japan had limited impact.
Sterling was the other major mover, suffering from the shift in money market rates in the common currency’s favor after the ECB meeting. It slid to 83.35 pence, its weakest in a month against the euro.
The Australian dollar had been on the way back up towards the end of last week, boosted by signs of improvement in its own economy. But like fellow commodity producer Canada, it depends heavily on China extending a decade of robust expansion.
More doubts are emerging on that front.
Latest numbers showed Chinese exports fell 18 percent year-on-year in February, and authorities in Beijing continued a campaign to halt any further appreciation of the yuan by setting its daily guidance for the currency at the highest since mid-December.
The Aussie traded 0.6 percent weaker at $0.9017, while the loonie bounced back at C$1.1101 after hitting a low of C$1.1073 in Asian trading.
The euro was holding within sight of Friday’s 2-1/2-year high of $1.3915 reached after last week’s ECB meeting, which quashed hopes for now of more action to stimulate growth.
The single currency last traded $1.3870, down 0.04 percent from late on Friday, while it slipped 0.1 percent against the Japanese yen at 143.10 yen.
Dealers were divided on whether the euro could to break above $1.40 though some noted the lack of reaction to concerns over its strength expressed by French central banker Christian Noyer.
“The euro has been fairly resilient,” said Marc Chandler, chief global currency strategist at Brown Brothers Harriman & Co. in New York.
While traders focused on the U.S. jobs data and ECB’s policy path, they were mindful of the tense situation in Ukraine as Russian forces tightened their grip on Crimea.
“The situation in Ukraine is back on people’s minds and one could already see the pressure on emerging markets on Friday after (strong) U.S. non-farm payrolls,” said Alvin Tann, strategist with French bank Societe Generale in London.
The Russian ruble was steady against the dollar at 36.3725 rubles. The dollar hit a record peak of 36.6750 rubles a week ago on fears of war in Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula after Russia’s invasion the region.
Analysts still expect diplomacy between the West and Russia to address the situation.
Among other emerging market currencies, the Mexican peso fell 0.3 percent against the dollar at 13.2220 pesos after hitting its strongest level in seven weeks against the greenback on Friday.
Additional reporting by Patrick Graham in London; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama