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Friday August 1, 2008 - 21:19:22 GMT
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FOREX NEWS-Dollar rises to 5-wk high vs euro, buoyed by US data

Fri Aug 1, 2008 4:28pm EDT

* Dollar rises after U.S. nonfarm payrolls report

* U.S. manufacturing activity holds steady in July

* Yen rises broadly as risk aversion increases (Recasts, updates prices, adds comments, changes byline)

By Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss

NEW YORK, Aug 1 (Reuters) - The U.S. dollar climbed to five-week peaks against the euro and three-week highs against the British pound on Friday as better-than-expected economic data allayed worries about a much sharper slowdown.

The yen, on the other hand, gained broadly, benefiting from heightened stress in financial markets on news that General Motors (GM.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) had hefty losses in the second quarter. That dragged U.S. stocks lower and triggered safe-haven bids for Treasuries.

"U.S. dollar sentiment has certainly changed for the better over the last couple of weeks," said Mark Frey, head foreign exchange trader at Custom House, a global payments dealer in Victoria, British Columbia.

"The U.S. economy has gone through some tough phases, but the jobs number was negative, but still better than expected. I think, more importantly, recent consumer confidence numbers and leading indicators, which are more forward-looking, have been more positive," he added.

Friday's data showed that U.S. employers eliminated 51,000 jobs in July, lower than market expectations for a payrolls decline of 75,000. A separate report said U.S. factory activity was unchanged in July, compared with the previous month, but above market forecasts. For details, see [ID:nN01429062].

In late New York trading, the euro was down 0.4 percent at $1.5538 <EUR=>. It dropped to $1.5514 immediately after the U.S. jobs data, its lowest since June 24, according to Reuters data.

The ICE Futures U.S. dollar index rose as high as 73.527 .DXY, building on July's gains, which saw it post its biggest monthly gain since January 2007. The index, which measures the dollar's performance against a basket of six currencies, was last up 0.4 percent at 73.461.

Sterling, meanwhile, fell to three-week lows at $1.9729 <GBP=>. It last traded at $1.9732, down half a percent from late on Thursday.

Following the latest U.S. data, investors widely expect the Fed's policy-making Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) to keep its benchmark federal funds rate steady at 2 percent when it meets on Tuesday.

The implied chances for rate increases rise steadily from there to 36 percent in September and 66 percent in October, but the first 25 basis-point-hike is not fully priced until the January FOMC meeting.

INCREASED RISK AVERSION

Rising risk aversion amid a drop in U.S. and key European stock markets dragged the dollar lower against the yen.

Shares of GM plunged more than 7 percent after the top U.S. carmaker posted a second-quarter loss of $15.5 billion, or $6.3 billion excluding one-time items, much worse than forecast. [ID:nN01288721]

A rise in crude oil prices also hurt the dollar against the yen. U.S. crude oil CLc1 rose $1.02 to settle at $125.10 a barrel as geopolitical concerns fanned supply worries after a top Israeli official said Iran was heading toward a major breakthrough in its nuclear program. [O/R].

The dollar last traded down 0.1 percent at 107.73 yen <JPY=>. Against the euro, the yen rose 0.5 percent, pushing the single currency to 167.37 <EURJPY=>.

The Australian dollar tumbled to a 2-1/2 month low at US$0.9289 <AUD=>, as speculation mounted that the Reserve Bank of Australia could set the tone for lower interest rates after its policy meeting next week.

The New Zealand dollar also slumped to US$0.7247 <NZD=>, a 10-month low, on deepening concerns over the local financial sector. It was last at US$0.7267, down 0.9 percent on the day.

By contrast, prospects for the U.S. dollar have started to improve since early last month as evidence mounted that America's credit and housing woes were spreading to other parts of the world such as the euro zone and Britain.

News out of the United States has been less dire than expected and falling oil prices have eased worries about the world's largest economy.

"The U.S. has taken further steps to ease the problems plaguing the housing market. Relatively speaking, the downward movement in Europe is now clearly more pronounced and the downshift has only just started," Danske Bank said in a research note. (Additional reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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