Currencies

Dollar at one-week high as investors seek safety after jobless data

U.S. dollar banknotes.
Liu Jie | Xinhua via Getty

The dollar hit a one-week high on Thursday as investors fled to safe-haven assets following the release of weekly U.S. jobless data showing a record 22 million Americans have sought unemployment benefits in the last month.

The dollar rose 0.45% to 100.08, a one-week high against a basket of six major currencies, after snapping a four-day losing streak the previous day as equity market gains fizzled.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped 1.370 million to a seasonally adjusted 5.245 million for the week ended April 11, the government said. Record jobless filings underscore the deepening economic slump caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

Dire U.S. retail and factory data and a nosedive in oil prices to 18-year lows on Wednesday strengthened the dollar across the board. Economists are predicting the economy, which they believe is already in recession, contracted in the first quarter at its sharpest pace since World War Two.

While stabilizing oil prices helped temper the dollar's gains, the data outlook was bleak.

"The dollar has fared better this week as record weak data suggested a longer and more uncertain road to recovery, a dimmer outlook that's revived appetite for haven assets," said Joe Manimbo, senior market analyst at Western Union Business Solutions.

The greenback has gained broadly during the crisis as investors scramble for the safety of the world's reserve currency, although it is down from its late-March highs since the U.S. Federal Reserve unleashed a stream of measures to support the economy.

"In the short term, the dollar is expected to remain firm because of its safe-haven status and as the global economic situation remains uncertain," said Andrew Wilson, chairman of global fixed income at Goldman Sachs Asset Management.

"We expect the dollar to underperform in the medium term as economies start to recover."

U.S. President Donald Trump is due to announce guidelines on re-opening the country's economy at a press conference later on Thursday.

The euro resumed its drop versus the dollar, down 0.72% at $1.083 as a half-trillion-euro compromise deal struck between euro zone governments last week to support countries through the coronavirus outbreak is widely seen as insufficient, especially for debt-laden Italy.

The yen weakened 0.25% against the dollar, as Japan extended a state of emergency beyond major cities to the entire nation.

The dollar rose against currencies considered riskier bets, edging up against the British pound and the Australian and New Zealand dollars.