By Hideyuki Sano and Tom Westbrook
TOKYO/SINGAPORE, July 2 – The dollar was on the defensive against more growth-sensitive currencies on Thursday, following upbeat U.S. and European economic data, though worries about the coronavirus blunted more aggressive risk taking ahead of upcoming U.S. jobs figures.
The New Zealand dollar led modest gains in Asia, edging ahead by 0.2% to a one-week high of $0.6492.
Against a basket of currencies, the greenback slipped marginally and is tracking toward its worst week in a month, with a 0.4% fall – though it could shift significantly in either direction depending on U.S. jobs data due at 1230 GMT.
Non-farm payrolls figures are expected to show an increase of 3 million jobs last month. But estimates vary widely and the data comes as concerns grow about whether the U.S. economy can sustain its recovery as coronavirus infections surge and some states reimpose limits on business and personal activity.
“Any reasonable reaction to this number must also price in the resurgence in cases,” said Vishnu Varathan, head of economics at Mizuho Bank in Singapore, adding that a strong beat is needed to boost sentiment.
“A shortfall, particularly even one that may be mildly negative, would quickly reinforce the shadows of doubt being cast on plans for unfettered re-openings,” he said.
A miss would probably push U.S. Treasury yields lower, Varathan added, but he said the dollar’s response is less predictable and dependent on whether investors regard hiccups in the U.S. recovery as a challenge to the global rebound.
“Given the programmes in place, a weak number is unambiguously weak,” said Steve Englander, global head of G10 FX research at Standard Chartered in New York.
“A strong number could reflect economic improvement or fiscal incentives to hire.”
Supporting sentiment in the meantime was news that a COVID-19 vaccine developed by German biotech firm BioNTech and U.S. pharmaceutical giant Pfizer showed potential in early-stage human trials.
U.S. manufacturing activity also rebounded more than expected in June, with the Institute for Supply Management’s manufacturing activity index hitting its highest in 14 months.
Similar surveys from China, Germany and France all pointed to an improvement in factory activity, while the ADP National Employment Report showed June private payrolls added nearly 2.4 million jobs.
Still, re-openings are stalling in the U.S. as case numbers surge. New cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, shot up by nearly 50,000 on Wednesday, the biggest one-day spike since the start of the pandemic.
The safe-haven Japanese yen hung on to overnight gains to hold steady at 107.53 yen per dollar, pointing to elevated investor caution.
Elsewhere the euro changed hands at $1.1257, maintaining its gain of 0.3% since the start of week.
The mood also lifted sterling above $1.25 for the first time in a week, and it last sat at $1.2483, having bounced almost 2% from a one-month low hit on Monday.
Analysts expect the pound could be about 4% stronger in a year’s time, if Britain and the European Union can thrash out a trade deal, a Reuters poll has found.
Broadly, poll respondents expect the dollar to slowly decline over the coming year, though that depends on there being no second shock from the coronavirus.
“If we see further spikes in coronavirus cases, I would expect both the dollar and the yen to strengthen against other currencies,” said Tohru Sasaki, head of Japan market research at J.P. Morgan (Reporting by Hideyuki Sano in Tokyo and Tom Westbrook in Singapore; Editing by Sam Holmes and Kim Coghill)