Dollar nurses losses as US-China trade tensions cloud outlook

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SINGAPORE: The dollar nursed its losses on Monday, having retreated late last week due to concerns over US-China trade tensions and following data that showed the US economy created the fewest jobs in six months in March.

The dollar index against a basket of six major currencies stood at 90.180, down from a one-month high of 90.597 hit ahead of the US non-farm payrolls on Friday.

The greenback had faltered against the safe-haven yen and Swiss franc on Friday in the wake of comments from China that raised renewed concerns about the US-China trade dispute.

China warned on Friday it was fully prepared to respond with a “fierce counter strike” of fresh trade measures if the United States follows through on President Donald Trump’s threat to slap tariffs on an additional $100 billion of Chinese goods.

Increasingly combative statements from Washington and Beijing have stirred fears of a full-blown trade war that could hurt global economic growth, though investors are holding out hope that negotiations will result in a far less damaging compromise.

Risk aversion appears less intense than it did a few weeks ago, partly due to hopes for negotiations between the United States and China toward a pragmatic solution, said Shinichiro Kadota, senior strategist for Barclays in Tokyo.

“We’re no longer in a phase where the dollar keeps falling persistently against the yen,” Kadota said.

“But at the same time, the (dollar’s) upside will likely be heavy, given the concerns over a trade war, as well as range-bound moves in US yields and the end of one-way rises in US equities,” Kadota added.

Against the yen, the dollar held steady at 106.92 yen after shedding 0.4 per cent on Friday to pull away from a five-week high of 107.49 yen set on Thursday.

That rise to Thursday’s peak marked a gain of 2.8 per cent for the dollar against the yen, compared with a 16-month low of 104.56 yen set on March 26.

The US payrolls report for March showed fewer job gains than expected and weighed on the dollar on Friday.

Friday’s US nonfarm payrolls report showed an increase of just 103,000 jobs in March, down from February’s surge of 326,000.

The bright spot though was a 0.3 per cent monthly rise in average hourly earnings, which pushed the annual wage growth rate higher.

The euro was down 0.1 per cent in early Asian trade at $1.2272, but traded above a one-month low touched on Friday at $1.2215.

The US-China trade dispute outweighed the generally upbeat remarks on the economy from Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, who said on Friday that the Fed will likely need to keep raising US interest rates to keep inflation under control.

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