By Kevin Buckland
TOKYO (Reuters) – The dollar sank to its lowest in almost a month against major rivals on Friday, ahead of a crucial U.S. jobs report that could spur the Federal Reserve to an earlier tapering of stimulus.
The dollar index, which measures the greenback against six peers, slipped 0.04% to 92.193 after earlier touching 92.189 for the first time since Aug. 5.
The euro edged up 0.02% to $1.1878, after hitting the highest since Aug. 4 at $1.1880.
The U.S. central bank has made a labour market recovery a condition for paring pandemic-era asset purchases.
The dollar had been strengthening for most of last month on the view that a taper could be imminent, even as COVID-19 cases spiked in the United States, which paradoxically gave the currency an additional boost because of its role as a safe haven.
But the dollar index retreated after hitting a 9 1/2-month high of 93.734 on Aug. 20 as Fed officials began suggesting the virus’ spread could delay policy tightening.
Chair Jerome Powell said at the Fed’s Jackson Hole symposium a week ago that a taper was still possible this year, but there was no hurry to subsequently raise interest rates, sending the dollar down further.
Monthly non-farm payrolls, due later Friday, are expected to rise by 750,000, with the unemployment rate falling to 5.2% from 5.4%, according to a Reuters poll of economists. However, estimates range widely, from as little as 375,000 to over a million.
Signals from the economy ahead of the report have been mixed. Overnight, data showed layoffs dropped to their lowest in more than 24 years. However, the ADP National Employment Report on Wednesday was much weaker than economists expected.
Commonwealth Bank of Australia (OTC:CMWAY) forecasts the United States added 800,000 jobs last month, which it says would be enough to spur the Fed to taper, although the bar for an announcement at this month’s meeting has been raised by the current outbreak.
“The risk is uncertainty associated with the virus stands in the way of an imminent taper announcement,” which would reverse any dollar gains from a strong payrolls report, CBA strategists wrote in a client note.
The Australian dollar was little changed at $0.74005 from Thursday, when it reached the highest since Aug. 5 at $0.74095.
The New Zealand dollar was about flat at $0.71145 after rising to the highest since June 16 at $0.7120 in the previous session.
The greenback was little changed at 109.915 yen, holding near the centre of its trading range since early July.