Dollar turns higher as focus turns to surging coronavirus cases

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

The U.S. dollar rose on Thursday, regaining its safe-haven appeal, as investors focused on the resurgence of U.S. coronavirus cases and raised concerns the economy would give back the summer's employment gains.

Earlier in the session, the dollar fell as risk appetite increased after data showing the world's largest economy defied expectations for a second month in a row, creating jobs in June at a far faster pace than market forecasts.

But that optimism waned as reports of more U.S. cases of COVID-19 emerged.

Florida reported more than 10,000 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, the biggest one-day increase in the state since the pandemic started, according to a Reuters tally.

The number of cases nationwide shot up by nearly 50,000 the day before, the fourth record rise in infections in the last seven days, following moves in many states to allow businesses to reopen from strict shutdowns aimed at containing the pandemic.

"Dollar performance will hinge on the U.S. response to COVID," said Juan Perez, senior currency trader at Tempus Inc. in Washington. "On that end, the U.S. is losing because the situation is far more difficult than in other parts of the world."

Despite Thursday's rise, the greenback was on track to post losses for a second straight week against a basket of major currencies.

The dollar hit session lows against the euro and held onto losses against a major currency basket after data showed that U.S. nonfarm payrolls increased by 4.8 million jobs in June, the most since the government started keeping records in 1939. Payrolls rebounded 2.699 million in May. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast payrolls increasing by 3 million jobs in June.

The unemployment rate, meanwhile, fell to 11.1% last month from 13.3% in May. The report had diminished the dollar's appeal as a safe haven.

"Everything still seems to be heading in the right direction. Right now, expectations are pretty high that the economy is rebounding back," said Edward Moya, senior market strategist at OANDA in New York.

In midday trading, the dollar index rose 0.2% to 97.31, as the euro fell 0.2% versus the greenback to $1.1226.

Despite the dollar's recent spell of weakness, the greenback was still about 2.5% from the 2020 low of 94.6 in the dollar index hit in early March. A Reuters poll predicts more weakness for the greenback over the next 12 months due to weak global demand.

The dollar gained 0.1% against the yen to 107.58 yen.

The U.S. currency had also been buffeted earlier in the global session by news a COVID-19 vaccine developed by German biotech firm BioNTech and U.S. pharmaceutical giant Pfizer had shown potential in early-stage human trials.