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Friday March 6, 2009 - 11:43:28 GMT
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FOREX NEWS-Dollar falls sharply on U.S. jobs data jitters

Fri Mar 6, 2009 6:33am EST

* Dollar falls 1 pct versus basket of currencies .DXY

* Investors brace for more grim news on U.S. jobs

* Euro jumps 0.9 pct vs dollar <EUR=>, Swiss franc gains

* IMF official sees worst downturn since second world war

(Updates prices, adds quotes)

By Jessica Mortimer

LONDON, March 6 (Reuters) - The dollar fell sharply on Friday as investors feared that key U.S. data would reveal another surge in job losses during February.

Economists expect the U.S. economy lost a massive 648,000 jobs in February, driving the unemployment rate to a 25-year high [ID:nN04539340], but traders said talk that the figure could be as high as 1 million had hit the dollar hard.

Typically, the dollar has tended to gain on bad news recently as investors look to the safety of the world's main reserve currency, but analysts said the knee-jerk reaction to the talk of such a horrendous number was to sell it.

They also said market players were adjusting positions ahead of the data after recent sharp gains that took the dollar index to a three-year high earlier this week

"People were long of dollars all week and now they are paring back those positions, helped by talk of a very bad payrolls number," ING head of currency strategy Chris Turner said.

"But I wouldn't read too much into this move - if the U.S. jobs data really is as bad as 1 million losses then I would expect that to support the dollar," he added.

At 1100 GMT, the dollar index fell 1 percent to 88.176 .DXY, while the euro gained 0.9 percent to $1.2675.

The Swiss franc was also a major gainer, with the euro tumbling to a four-month low against the currency, with analysts saying the Swiss unit has briefly resumed its safe-haven status amid intensifying concerns about a severe global economic downturn.

The dollar fell 1.3 percent against the Swiss franc to 1.1541 francs <CHF=>, while the euro was down 0.4 percent at 1.4633 francs <EURCHF=>, having earlier dropped as low as 1.4580 francs.

The yen also gained, with the dollar tumbling 1.2 percent to 96.77 yen <JPY=> and the euro losing 0.3 percent to 122.71 yen <EURJPY=R>.

ECONOMIC WOES

Global economic concerns intensified on Friday as a top International Monetary Fund official told a UK newspaper the world's developed economies were in the deepest slump since World War Two and warned the downturn could last into next year [ID:nL6013626].

Most analysts predict that ongoing global economic concerns and the worsening situation in eastern European countries will soon return to boost the dollar once more.

"The market had been expecting that big rate cuts from the European Central Bank and the Bank of England would provide the catalyst for the euro to break new lows against the dollar, but when that did not happen investors reversed their long positions," ING's Turner said.

The European Central Bank and the Bank of England cut interest rates by 50 basis points to record lows of 1.5 and 0.5 percent respectively on Thursday, with the UK central bank also beginning unconventional measures to boost the supply of money.

In an accompanying press conference, ECB president Jean-Claude Trichet signalled further rate cuts and painted a bleak picture on the economy, with staff forecasting the euro zone may contract by more than 3 percent this year.

The U.S. payrolls data at 1330 GMT will be seen as a key gauge on the health of the world's largest economy and trading is expected to be very nervous ahead of the data.

Analysts were unconvinced that the latest move down in the dollar was an indication that the currency could be starting to lose its safe haven status.

"If the U.S. jobs data is really as bad as the speculation suggests then the reality is that it would very likely be dollar positive," State Street currency strategist Lee Ferridge said.

(Reporting by Jessica Mortimer; Editing by Victoria Main)

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