SINGAPORE: The dollar held gains on Monday after job market data provided the latest sign of U.S. economic strength, while worries about the coronavirus epidemic kept other trade-exposed currencies subdued.
Data on Friday showed U.S. job growth accelerated last month, blowing past estimates, with particular strength in construction – indicating the economy is in decent shape.
The death toll from the coronavirus outbreak, meanwhile, rose again over the weekend, passing the total killed by the SARS epidemic. It now stands at 908 in mainland China, where there are a total of 40,171 infections.
That has left trade-exposed currencies on the back foot, the dollar at milestone highs against other majors and safe-haven currencies such as the yen trading firmly.
The Australian dollar touched a fresh decade-low of $0.6657 in early trade and last stood at $0.6680. The New Zealand dollar touched a two-month low of $0.6397.
Against the euro, the greenback was just below a four-month high of $1.0940 hit on Friday at $1.0948. The pound was parked near its lowest since November at $1.2890.
“There is an overriding theme of U.S. dollar strength against a backdrop where the data continues to suggest that the U.S. economy is faring better than others,” Rodrigo Catril, senior FX strategist at National Australia Bank in Sydney.
Flows in to the buoyant U.S. stock market further supported the currency, Catril said.
“For now until we have more clarity on the coronavirus and its full impact on economic activity, it’s difficult to see the dollar coming under much challenge.”
Authorities in China were preparing for millions of people to return to work on Monday following an extended Lunar New Year break.
Yet with many of China’s teeming cities turned into almost ghost towns during the past two weeks, investors are looking closely at how quickly the economy can regain its feet.
The trepidation had the Japanese yen trading firmly in the morning at 109.64 per dollar.
“It’s a key week, with factories and ports in China due to open,” ANZ analysts said in a note. “Whether that is achievable, and to what extent, will provide direction about the extent of ongoing disruption as the outbreak continues.”
Chinese inflation data is due at 0130 GMT, and a significant miss of expectations for year-on-year inflation running at 4.5% may increase the size of the challenge for Chinese policymakers.
The yuan last traded steady at 7.0069 per dollar offshore .
Elsewhere in Asia, investors continued to sell emerging markets’ currencies in favour of dollars and yen. That has left the Thai baht at an almost 8-month trough of 31.37 per dollar and the Singapore dollar 3% weaker in two weeks. – Reuters