Dollar falls as jobs report disappoints

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The dollar fell against the euro on Friday, after data showed U.S. employers hired fewer workers than forecast in November, raising worries that U.S. growth is moderating and the Federal Reserve may stop raising rates sooner than previously thought.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Dollar banknotes are seen in this photo illustration taken February 12, 2018. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez//File Photo

Nonfarm payrolls increased by 155,000 jobs last month, while the unemployment rate was unchanged at near a 49-year low of 3.7 percent. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast payrolls increasing by 200,000 jobs in November.

Average hourly earnings rose six cents, or 0.2 percent in November after gaining 0.1 percent in October. That left the annual increase in wages at 3.1 percent, matching October’s jump, which was the biggest gain since April 2009.

Fed policymakers are still widely expected to raise interest rates again at their Dec. 18-19 meeting, but the focus is on how many rate hikes will follow in 2019.

“This was slightly disappointing on the headline level, but wage growth coming in as expected keeps the Fed on track to raise rates in December,” said Karl Schamotta, chief market strategist at Cambridge Global Payments in Toronto.

“The overall effect has been a sell-off in the dollar, largely in a reaction to a lower expectation for rate hikes in 2019,” he said.

The euro was 0.32 percent higher against the dollar.

An index that tracks the greenback versus the euro, yen, sterling and three other currencies was down 0.24 percent at 96.579.

Interest rate futures implied traders see no more than one rate increase in 2019, compared with expectations a month earlier for possibly two rate hikes, according to CME Group’s FedWatch program.

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said last week that U.S. interest rates were nearing neutral levels, which markets interpreted as signalling a slowdown in rate rises.

The U.S. central bank is flagging a turning point in monetary policy, as a Federal Reserve policymaker on Friday backed interest rate hikes in the “near term” but nodded to increasingly less certainty ahead.

“The dollar looks set for more choppy trade as markets seek answers to whether the U.S. economy is stronger or weaker than it thinks,” Joe Manimbo, senior market analyst at Western Union Business Solutions in Washington, said in a note.

Falling U.S. yields, which have been chipping away at the yield differential advantage the greenback enjoyed earlier this year, have been another factor impeding the dollar’s advance recently.

On a weekly basis, the dollar was down about 0.7 percent, set for its biggest drop in more than two months.

Sterling fell on Friday and was headed for a fourth consecutive week of losses as British Prime Minister Theresa May pressed ahead with plans for a parliamentary vote on her Brexit deal with the European Union, despite warnings it could topple her government.

The Canadian dollar strengthened against its U.S. counterpart as higher oil prices and data showing a record increase in domestic jobs bolstered expectations for further interest rate hikes from the Bank of Canada.

Reporting by Saqib Iqbal Ahmed; Editing by Dan Grebler and Chizu Nomiyama