Dollar choppy after unemployment tops 10 percent

AP News
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Posted: Nov 06, 2009 4:46 PM

The safe-haven dollar got an immediate boost Friday after the government said the U.S. unemployment rate rose above 10 percent, but then gave back its gains in choppy trading as investors figured that a weak economy meant the Federal Reserve would keep interest rates at their current near-zero range for a long time.

Higher interest rates can support a currency as investors transfer funds in search of better returns. On Thursday, the ECB and BoE maintained their rates at 1 percent and 0.5 percent, respectively, higher than the U.S. federal funds rate.

The Federal Reserve said Wednesday it will keep the key interest rate at a record low level of nearly zero for an "extended period" to support the economy amid rising unemployment and hard-to-get loans.

On Friday, the U.S. government said the jobless rate rose to 10.2 percent last month from 9.8 percent in September. That's the highest level of unemployment since April 1983.

The 16-nation euro had weakened to $1.4811 in the 20 minutes after the government's announcement, but then moved higher. In late trading, the euro dipped to $1.4835 from $1.4868 late Thursday, while the British pound rose to $1.6602 from $1.6586. The dollar slipped to 89.93 Japanese yen from 90.78 yen.

"Equities managed to shrug off" the jobs data, said Deutsche Bank's Adam Boyton. Investors generally look at jobs as a "lagging indicator," or one of the last areas to recover in a recession. So they weren't particularly worried about the unemployment rate, he said, especially given that last week the government said the country grew 3.5 percent in the third quarter.

Rising unemployment also signaled that the Fed could keep interest rates at their current range between zero and 0.25 percent for an "extended period" that may last into late next year.

The upward move in stocks then tugged the dollar lower. After the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the dollar's value had surged as spooked investors sought safety in the greenback and the Treasurys it can buy.

Since spring, as equity markets recovered and investors renewed their search for riskier, high-yielding trades, the dollar has given back all of those gains.

On Friday, stocks were wobbly. The price of the dollar against the euro was tightly tracking equities, which posted a modest advance in light trading.

In other New York trading, the dollar rose to 1.0768 Canadian dollars from 1.0648 late Thursday, and inched up to 1.0179 Swiss francs from 1.0165 francs.