Dollar gains against euro on ADP data, dips against yen

Torsakarin | iStock / 360 | Getty Images

The U.S. dollar dipped against the yen on Wednesday on concerns over U.S. economic growth but hit a more than one-month high against the euro after strong U.S. private payrolls data supported expectations for higher U.S. interest rates.

The dollar erased gains against the yen after hitting 114.55 , its highest level against the Japanese currency in more than two weeks. Analysts said extended declines in oil prices stoked concerns over the U.S. economy and boosted the safe-haven yen.

"We know that the oil price weakness has been associated with concerns on banks, concerns on growth," said Steven Englander, global head of G10 foreign exchange strategy at CitiFX in New York. "This nudges the concerns back a bit more into the picture."

Future of the yen

The euro fell to $1.0830, its lowest level against the greenback since Feb. 1, after the ADP National Employment Report showed U.S. private employers added 214,000 jobs in February. That was above economists' expectations for a gain of 190,000, according to a Reuters poll.

Analysts said the private payrolls number extended recent strength in U.S. economic data, including higher-than-expected construction spending and manufacturing data released on Tuesday. It also revived expectations of at least one U.S. Federal Reserve rate hike this year after market turmoil at the start of 2016 caused them to subside.

Such expectations stand in contrast with prospects of looser policies at central banks such as the European Central Bank and Bank of Japan, a trend which is supportive of a stronger dollar.

"You've had this divergence trade reasserting itself," Englander said.

Japanese yen
Goldman Sachs: Why it’s wrong to be long the Japanese yen

Expectations that the ECB will announce an even more stimulative monetary policy at its March 10 meeting contributed to the euro's weakness, although the possibility that this might not happen limited the decline.

"The ECB is widely expected to weaken the euro with stronger stimulus," said Joe Manimbo, senior market analyst at Western Union Business Solutions in Washington. "At the same time, markets are mindful of that huge disappointment in December."

The ECB's stimulus move on Dec. 3 was smaller than expected, which led to a euro "short squeeze" in which traders who had bet against the currency rapidly repurchased it.

The dollar index, which measures the greenback against six major currencies, was last down 0.18 percent at 98.17.

Investors in the U.S. also digested the latest edition of the Federal Reserve's Beige Book, its report of anecdotal information collected from business contacts across the country.

U.S. economic activity continued to expand in most districts from early January to late February but conditions varied considerably across regions and within sectors, the Federal Reserve said on Wednesday.

The decidedly mixed picture illustrates the headache Fed policymakers face when they next meet to decide the path of interest rates on March 15-16.