* Euro steadies after Thursday’s 0.9 pct drop
* ECB Draghi’s comments on deposit rates dents euro
* Focus turns to U.S. jobs data due Friday
By Masayuki Kitano
SINGAPORE, May 3 (Reuters) - The euro inched higher versus the dollar on Friday, steadying somewhat after sliding the previous day as the European Central Bank cut interest rates and held out the possibility of further policy action.
The ECB cut its benchmark refinancing rate by 25 basis points to a record low 0.5 percent on Thursday in a widely expected move.
The single currency came under pressure after ECB President Mario Draghi said the bank is technically ready for negative deposit rates and noted downside risks to the economy.
A negative deposit rate would mean banks would have to pay the ECB for holding euro deposits. Such a move could drive money out of the euro zone into other higher-yielding assets and encourage the banks to lend out money rather than hold it at the central bank.
The euro inched up 0.1 percent to about $1.3071, steadying a bit after its 0.9 percent drop on Thursday.
With the euro in retreat, the dollar rose versus a basket of currencies.
The dollar index last stood at 82.194, holding well above a two-month low of 81.331 that was set on Wednesday.
Investors’ focus now shifts to Friday’s U.S. non-farm payrolls report for April. Economists polled by Reuters are looking for job growth of 145,000 last month, up from 88,000 for March. The unemployment rate is seen holding steady at 7.6 percent.
Given a weak reading on private sector hiring released earlier this week, market players probably suspect that the jobs data might come in weaker, said Satoshi Okagawa, senior global markets analyst for Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation in Singapore.
“I don’t think there will be that much of an impact even if it were to come in at around 100,000 or so,” Okagawa said, referring to nonfarm payrolls.
If the jobs data adds to recent signs of a softening in the U.S. economy, it could intensify speculation that the Fed is unlikely to scale back its bond purchases very soon, and that its next move might even be to increase its debt buying programme. Such talk would likely weigh on the dollar.
In an encouraging sign for the U.S. labour market’s outlook, data released on Thursday showed that the number of Americans filing new jobless benefits claims fell sharply last week to its lowest level since the early days of the 2007-09 recession.
The report on jobless claims helped give a lift to the dollar against the yen on Thursday, although it has no direct bearing on Friday’s April jobs data.
Against the yen, the dollar held steady at 98.01 yen. The dollar rose about 0.7 percent on Thursday and pulled away from a two-week low of 96.99 yen set on April 30.
The dollar hit a four-year high of 99.95 yen in April after the Bank of Japan unveiled its drastic monetary stimulus programme, but its rally has stalled in the past few weeks after it met firm resistance near the psychologically important 100 yen level.