Dollar on track for worst week in a month, soft U.S. jobs data shrugged off

An employee counts US dollars at a bureau de change in downtown Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Vanderlei Almeida | AFP | Getty Images

The dollar fell to a 2-1/2-year low on Friday, on track for its worst week in a month, as investors shrugged off a November U.S. non-farm payrolls report that badly missed expectations and focused on a flurry of positive vaccine news.

By early afternoon though, the dollar trimmed its losses to trade little changed to slightly lower on the day ahead of the weekend.

Upbeat announcements on COVID-19 vaccines have helped drive a rally in riskier currencies at the expense of the safe-haven dollar.

The euro and Swiss franc, in contrast, were headed for their best week against the dollar in a month. The single European currency touched a 2-1/2-year high, while the Swiss franc rose to its highest in nearly six years.

Data showed that U.S. non-farm payrolls increased by 245,000 jobs last month after rising by 610,000 in October. That was the smallest gain since the jobs recovery started in May.

Despite the weak jobs data, Don Curren, market strategist at Cambridge Global Payments, said "the key drivers in foreign exchange are likely to remain the two narratives that have dominated trading in recent sessions - excitement over the renewed possibility that Congress might forge another fiscal stimulus package in the U.S., and enthusiasm about the rapid progress being made on the development of vaccines for COVID-19."

In early-afternoon trading, the dollar index was slightly lower at 90.64, after earlier falling to 90.471, the lowest in more than 2-1/2 years. On the week, the index was down 1.3%, on pace for its largest weekly loss since early November.

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Friday there was momentum behind talks on a coronavirus relief bill and that a bipartisan proposal could be the basis for relief negotiations. That should keep risk appetite higher.

The euro, on the other hand, has been one of the biggest winners from recent dollar weakness, breaking decisively above $1.20 this week.

The single currency rose to $1.2177, its highest since April 2018, and was last up slightly at $1.2146 .
Against the Swiss franc, the dollar continued its descent, dropping to a nearly six-year low of 0.8886 franc. The greenback was last down 0.1% at 0.8902.

The dollar gained 0.2% against the yen to 104.08 yen.

Ulas Akincilar, head of trading at the online trading platform INFINOX, said despite the weaker-than-expected U.S. employment number, it was a "finely balanced jobs report."

"The calculation is that the slowing jobs market will spur U.S. lawmakers into agreeing a fiscal stimulus to match the Fed's monetary support," he added.
Sterling, meanwhile, rose 0.2% against the dollar to $1.3485, helped by the greenback's broad weakness. It hit a 2-1/2-year peak on expectations that Britain will likely be able to clinch a post-Brexit trade deal with the European Union this weekend.