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Saturday January 6, 2007 - 01:29:24 GMT
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FOREX-Jobs data help extend dollar rally to third day

FOREX-Jobs data help extend dollar rally to third day
Fri Jan 5, 2007 4:18pm ET146

(Recasts; updates prices)

By Nick Olivari

NEW YORK, Jan 5 (Reuters) - The dollar gained for a third day on Friday after a surprising report on U.S. jobs growth in December led investors to scale back expectations for a Federal Reserve interest rates cut in the next six months.

The euro plunged to a six-week low against the dollar after the Labor Department said the U.S. economy generated 167,000 new jobs in December, well above market expectations for a rise of 100,000. For more, see [ID:nN05251550]

"For the time being, with this reasonable number that you have, the likelihood of a Fed rate cut is off the table," said John McCarthy, vice president of foreign exchange at ING Capital Markets in New York. "That's lending a bit of support to the dollar."

Several analysts said they are not expecting the Fed to cut interest rates from the present level of 5.25 percent any time soon, especially since the data also showed the largest rise in average hourly earnings in eight months.

Robust job growth, coupled with upward pressure on hourly wages, will likely keep the Fed concerned enough about inflation to leave its key interest rate on hold for at least several months to come, analysts said.

The euro dropped to its lowest since Nov. 24 and was last down 0.6 percent at $1.30001 . A break below $1.2980 would likely trigger a wave of automatic sell orders, adding momentum to the euro's decline, traders said. Continued...

With Friday's decline, it was the worst three-day decline for the euro against the dollar since November 2005.

Meanwhile, sterling fell to a six-week low and last traded down 0.7 percent at $1.9296.

In a further sweetener to dollar bulls, the government also revised up its estimates of job growth in October and November, suggesting the labor market is proving more resilient than many economists had thought.

"The employment report prompted a kneejerk reaction higher in the dollar as players were surprised at the unexpected gains in jobs as well as the accelerated pace of wage growth," said Michael Woolfolk, New York-based senior currency strategist at The Bank of New York in a note to clients.

Investors will be looking to retail sales and trade data next week for further evidence on the state of the U.S. economy.

The dollar also wiped out much of its early losses against the yen, but last traded down 0.3 percent at 118.71 yen , well above the session low of 117.98 yen.

The yen had rallied across the board earlier in the session as some investors closed up "carry trades," in which they had sold low-yielding currencies such as the yen for high-yielders like the New Zealand dollar.

Some traders this week have cited rising speculation that the Bank of Japan may raise interest rates to 0.5 percent at a policy meeting later this month.

In addition, a sharp decline in raw materials prices this week has hurt the currencies of commodity exporters such as Australia and New Zealand -- popular targets of carry trades.

This has sent some investors scrambling to buy back the yen and Swiss franc, the most popular funding currencies of such trades. The Swiss franc dipped against the dollar on Friday, but elsewhere, strengthened across the board.

The euro slipped 0.4 percent to 1.6071 Swiss francs .

© Reuters 2007. All Rights Reserved


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