Dollar Is Back on the Hunt for 100 Yen

Why the Dollar Won't Fall Off a Cliff

The dollar rose against the yen for a third straight session on Monday and appeared poised to take another stab at reaching the key 100 yen mark as last week's better-than-expected U.S. labor market data assuaged U.S. economic growth concerns.

The dollar, up a whopping 14.6 percent against the yen so far in 2013, is likely to continue strengthening as the Bank of Japan tries to buoy its deflation-plagued economy by flooding the market with liquidity through the $1.4 trillion bond-buying plan it announced early last month.

On the other hand, while the U.S. Federal Reserve is widely expected to continue buying $85 billion a month in bonds, Friday's solid April jobs figure and upward revisions to prior months have revived talk that the central bank may start to reduce asset purchases under its quantitative easing program later this year.

(Read More: Everything You Think You Know About the Fed's Exit Plan May Be Wrong)

The robust report allayed concerns raised by other data over the past month of a loss of steam in the U.S. economy, the world's largest.

"A break through 100 yen in the near term has greatly increased after Friday's payrolls data because it indicated the economy is not as weak as many had feared," said Omer Esiner, chief market analyst at Commonwealth Foreign Exchange in Washington.


The dollar last traded up 0.3 percent at 99.32 yen, not far from its session peak of 99.45 yen—its highest point since April 25—according to Reuters data.

The greenback hit a four-year high of 99.94 yen on April 11, but the pair failed to break the psychologically important 100 mark as option traders defended the level and as worries about the U.S. economy pressured the dollar.

"While options barriers have prevented a break of 100 yen in recent weeks, no resistance lasts forever, while a move higher in Treasury yields will be a leading indicator of where it is headed," Esiner said.

The yield differential between U.S. Treasury yields and Japanese government bonds is a primary driver of dollar/yen, and Friday's jobs data sent Treasury yields, which move inversely to price, to their highest levels in three weeks. Yields should remain at relatively higher levels as investors prepare for $72 billion in new supply this week.

The jobs data had investors embracing risk and sent Wall Street stocks to new highs. Rising risk appetite tends to pressure the yen as investors sell the lower-yielding Japanese currency to buy assets with greater returns.

The euro was flat at 129.86 yen, having earlier risen to 130.40 yen, a two-week high.

Nevertheless, trading volume was thin due to holidays in Britain and Japan, traders said.

The euro, meanwhile, slipped against the dollar after European Central Bank President Mario Draghi said the bank is closely watching incoming data and is ready to take further action if needed to address economic weakness.

ECB Executive Board member Benoit Coeure said on Saturday the European Central Bank can cut its main policy rate even further after pushing it to a record low last week.

(Read More: Euro Zone Business Downturn Points to Deeper Recession)

Responding to a drop in euro zone inflation well below its target level of just under 2 percent and rising unemployment, the ECB lowered its main rate by a quarter percentage point to 0.50 percent.

Draghi also hinted last week at the possibility of negative deposit rates. This would penalize banks for hoarding cash and could drive money out of the euro zone.

Against the dollar, the euro dropped 0.3 percent to $1.3074, pulling further away from a two-month high of $1.3242 set last Wednesday. It hit a session low of $1.3052 after Draghi's comments.

"The risks are now tilted to the downside for euro/dollar and it could test $1.30," said Arne Lohmann Rasmussen, head of FX research at Danske Bank in Copenhagen.

Adding to the euro's bearish tone, surveys showed the euro zone's business downturn dragged on in April and that Germany is now suffering a contraction in business activity, a trend that has long dogged France, Italy and Spain.

The Australian dollar fell 0.6 percent to $1.0252, hurt by a surprise drop in retail sales and slower Chinese services activity.

(Read More: China Services Sector Grows at Slowest Pace in Nearly 2 Years)

The Reserve Bank of Australia meets on Tuesday. Markets imply a 50-50 chance of a rate cut, but a Reuters poll showed most economists see rates steady at 3.0 percent.

Interest rate differentials are a key driver of demand for the Australian dollar.

With the Federal Reserve holding interest rates at or near zero, an RBA rate cut would diminish some of the appeal of Australia's currency.