Dollar in check as investors await August jobs report

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The dollar edged lower against a basket of currencies on Thursday, as investors positioned themselves ahead of Friday’s highly anticipated jobs report for August.

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The dollar index .DXY, which measures the greenback against a basket of six currencies, was down 0.13 percent at 95.061. The index hit a two-week high on Tuesday.

“The dollar has just surrendered some gains, broadly speaking, after its outperformance, ahead of critical jobs data tomorrow,” said Joe Manimbo, senior market analyst at Western Union Business Solutions in Washington.

“It’s just positioning ahead of payroll data,” he said.

On Thursday, the ADP National Employment Report showed private payrolls increased by 163,000 jobs last month. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast private payrolls increasing by 190,000 jobs last month.

While the ADP report has a spotty record predicting the private payrolls component of the employment report, it was “perhaps a hint that employment growth has started to fade again after a very strong first half of the year,” said Paul Ashworth, chief U.S. economist at Capital Economics in Toronto.

While the Federal Reserve is on track to raise interest rates this month for the third time this year, Friday’s data will help shape the interest rate outlook, said Manimbo.

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The dollar also came under pressure as investors sought the yen and the Swiss franc amid continuing uncertainties on the trade front, analysts said.

Trump could impose levies on $200 billion more of Chinese imports on Thursday when a public comment period on the new tariffs ends. That would represent a significant ramping up of the trade war between the world’s two largest economies.

The greenback was 0.54 percent lower against the Japanese yen and fell 0.56 percent against the Swiss franc.

The Swiss and Japanese currencies are often sought in times of global tension partly because the countries have big current account surpluses.

The British pound, which rose on optimism about the chances of a Brexit deal following a Bloomberg report on Wednesday, added to gains despite Germany appearing to shoot down the report.

Sterling was up 0.21 percent against the dollar.

To be sure, the greenback is likely to be well supported in coming days as investors grapple with trade-related uncertainties, analysts said.

“The dollar is still in demand on pull-backs,” said Dean Popplewell, vice president of market analysis at OANDA, in Toronto.

The Canadian dollar rose against its U.S. counterpart after a senior Bank of Canada official indicated the central bank may be forced to raise interest rates if talks to renegotiate the NAFTA trade pact fail, saying protectionist measures could spur inflation.

Reporting by Saqib Iqbal Ahmed; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Diane Craft