NEW YORK (Reuters) - The U.S. dollar gained against a basket of currencies to its highest levels in 2-1/2 weeks on Friday after data showed that U.S. job growth rebounded strongly in June.
Non-farm payrolls increased by 224,000 jobs last month, the most in five months, and well above the 160,000 jobs forecast by economists.
The strong gains came after job growth slowed sharply in May. The economy created 11,000 fewer jobs in April and May than previously reported, the government said on Friday.
“You look at the U.S. number for today and there’s quite a bit of sticker shock with that,” said Bipan Rai, North America head of fx strategy at CIBC Capital Markets in Toronto. “We think the sticker shock and thin liquidity is enough to drive the dollar a little bit firmer for today.”
The data came as many traders and investors were away, a day after the July 4 holiday and ahead of the weekend.
The dollar index, which measures the greenback against a basket of six major currencies, was last at 97.311, up 0.56%, after earlier rising to 97.443, the highest level since June 19.
Moderate wage gains in June, however, added to evidence that the economy is slowing while the increase in jobs was not enough to offset weakness in May.
“You did get a massive upside surprise but again that’s coming after a month in which you had a massive downside miss,” Rai said. “If you take the two numbers together you are still averaging at a clip that’s slower than prior years’ growth.”
Average hourly earnings rose 6 cents, or 0.2%, after gaining 0.3% in May. That kept the annual increase in wages at 3.1% for a second straight month.
The dollar has weakened from a two-year high reached in May on growing expectations that the Federal Reserve is closer to cutting interest rates.
U.S. economic growth continued “at a solid pace” in the first half of the year though it likely weakened in recent months as higher tariffs depressed global trade and business investment weakened, the Fed said on Friday in its semi-annual report to Congress.
The euro also came under pressure on Friday after data showed that German industrial orders fell far more than expected in May, and the Economy Ministry warned that this sector of Europe’s largest economy was likely to remain weak in the coming months.
A relentless slide in European government bond yields has forced investors to look for higher-yielding assets elsewhere, which is holding back a sustained euro rally against the greenback.
Editing by Bill Trott and Leslie Adler