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Friday December 5, 2008 - 10:39:50 GMT
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FOREX NEWS-Dollar little changed, traders await US jobs data

Fri Dec 5, 2008 4:02am EST

* Dollar little changed, market awaits U.S. jobs report

* Euro holds gains after big ECB interest rate cut

* Weak jobs reading may spur risk aversion, boosting dollar

(Changes byline, dateline, adds comment, updates throughout; previous TOKYO)

By Naomi Tajitsu

LONDON, Dec 5 (Reuters) - The dollar was little changed against the euro and the yen on Friday, as investors awaited U.S. jobs data which is expected to show that the U.S. economy is deteriorating further and may need more interest rate cuts.

The euro held slight gains made the previous day, when the European Central Bank delivered its biggest interest rate cut ever, slicing 75 basis points off its key lending rate to 2.75 percent to support its economy in the face of a global recession. Traders awaited U.S. non-farm payrolls for November, which are forecast to show a loss of 340,000 jobs. Such a reading would mark the biggest monthly drop in more than two decades.

Analysts said that speculation was growing that the figure could be even worse, and currencies were likely to take a cue from how equity markets react to the announcement at 1330 GMT.

"Markets are prepared for quite a big negative number," said Ian Stannard, senior foreign exchange strategist at BNP Paribas in London.

A big negative figure would add to the view that the U.S. economy is slowing down sharply, warranting a weaker dollar. But he pointed out that indications that the global recession is deepening could heighten risk aversion and possibly boost the dollar.

"If we do see equity markets coming off sharply and it turns into a global equity markets sell off, then we could well see currencies coming back under pressure against the dollar, so it could actually be a dollar-positive."

At 0841 GMT, the euro was little changed at $1.2760, after inching up to a session high of $1.2795 early in the London session.

Against a basket of currencies, .DXY, the U.S. currency was flat at 86.632, while hovering around 92.18 yen, roughly 0.2 percent lower on the day.

The dollar and the yen have benefited from risk aversion as an increasingly grim global economic outlook has battered stock markets and other asset classes.

This has prompted investors to dump risky positions including those in what were once high-yielding currencies such as the euro, sterling and the Australian and New Zealand dollars, in favour of the U.S. currency and the low-yielding yen.

STERLING WEAK

Sterling <GBP=> rose 0.4 percent to $1.4730 as some traders covered short positions in the currency after it plumbed a near seven-year low against the dollar on Thursday, when the Bank of England cut rates by 100 basis points to 2.0 percent.

The move took UK rates to their lowest level since 1951, while the BoE indicated more needed to be done to prevent a credit squeeze tipping Britain's economy into a prolonged recession. [ID:nL4384604]

This kept overall sentiment weak for the pound, which hovered near a record low against the euro <EURGBP=>. Market participants expect the belief that the UK economy will continue to weaken to keep the pound under selling pressure.

Even after Thursday's big rate cuts, market participants believe that the interest rates of major countries around the world have more room to fall.

This would shrink their spreads against the Federal Reserve's 1.0 percent rate and Japan's 0.3 percent, which are seen keeping the dollar and the yen supported in the longer term.

Analysts said that trade was quiet early on Friday before the U.S. jobs report, in addition to uncertainty over the fate of troubled U.S. automakers and their attempts to secure government aid.

The chief executives of General Motors Corp (GM.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) and Chrysler LLC said they would consider restarting merger talks if needed to win their slice of up to $34 billion in emergency U.S. government aid. [ID:nN04392913]

The CEOs will appear again before the U.S. House Financial Services Committee on Friday.

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