By Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss
NEW YORK (Reuters) -The dollar fell on Thursday, consolidating recent gains that pushed it to nearly three-year highs during the first quarter, but the outlook remained upbeat in the wake of improving economic prospects backed by the Biden government’s more than $2 trillion stimulus plan.
Investors are now looking to Friday’s non-farm payrolls report to confirm their positive view on the dollar and the economy.
The dollar gained 3.6% against a basket of six currencies in the first three months of the year, its best quarterly performance since June 2018, with investors betting on a swift and robust economic recovery.
“We’re seeing the U.S. growth outlook just crushing Europe’s,” said Edward Moya, senior market analyst, at online FX trading platform, OANDA.
“The Biden administration is not even three months on the job and it’s about to deliver its second multi-trillion-dollar stimulus package. We’ll probably see the U.S. run hot and that’s probably driving the rise in Treasury yields including the dollar.”
U.S. President Joe Biden announced on Wednesday his long- awaited $2 trillion-plus job plan, including $621 billion to rebuild infrastructure.
Meanwhile, U.S. data showed strong growth prospects.
A report on the U.S. manufacturing sector showed a stronger-than-expected reading of 64.7 in March, the highest in more than 37 years. That was offset, though, by slowing construction spending, which fell 0.8% in February, and an increase in U.S. jobless claims in the latest week.
In afternoon trading, the dollar index slipped 0.3% to 92.933.
The dollar though slipped a bit after the jobless claims report, with claims of 719,000 in the week ended March 27.
The dollar index’s gains in the first quarter came as the euro, the biggest component in the index, struggled on concerns the euro zone’s recovery is being hampered by a third wave of COVID-19 infections.
France’s President Emmanuel Macron ordered the country into its third national lockdown and said schools would close for three weeks. The euro zone also lags the United States in vaccination programs.
Sentiment toward Europe, though, received a boost when data showed euro zone monthly factory activity growth galloped at its fastest pace in the nearly 24-year history of a leading business survey.
The euro was last up 0.3% at $1.1768.
The dollar was down 0.1% against the yen at 110.61 yen, after ending March with its biggest monthly gain since November 2016. It rose as high as 110.97 on Wednesday, the highest in a year.
The U.S. non-farm payrolls report is the major data release this week, with economists expecting an increase of about 650,000 jobs in March.
“Considering the recent price action, the risk of a selloff in the U.S. dollar is elevated if the jobs report fails to meet expectations,” said Matt Weller, global head of market research at FOREX.com and City Index.
“In that scenario, the beaten-down euro/dollar could have room to recover back toward its 200-day (exponential moving average) and the previous support level near $1.1830 through early next week.”
In observance of Good Friday, Reuters will not be putting out market reports during the European hours.
Currency bid prices at 2:46PM (1846 GMT)
Description RIC Last U.S. Close Pct Change YTD Pct High Bid Low Bid
Dollar index 92.9410 93.2040 -0.28% 3.290% +93.3380 +92.8730
Euro/Dollar $1.1769 $1.1730 +0.34% -3.67% +$1.1780 +$1.1712
Dollar/Yen 110.6150 110.7100 -0.09% +7.06% +110.8450 +110.5500
Euro/Yen 130.17 129.87 +0.23% +2.56% +130.2300 +129.6600
Dollar/Swiss 0.9420 0.9437 -0.17% +6.48% +0.9472 +0.9406
Sterling/Dollar $1.3830 $1.3781 +0.37% +1.24% +$1.3836 +$1.3746
Dollar/Canadian 1.2554 1.2563 -0.07% -1.41% +1.2601 +1.2547
Aussie/Dollar $0.7615 $0.7594 +0.28% -1.01% +$0.7618 +$0.7533
Euro/Swiss 1.1084 1.1070 +0.13% +2.56% +1.1118 +1.1066
Euro/Sterling 0.8507 0.8510 -0.04% -4.81% +0.8533 +0.8494
NZ $0.7019 $0.6984 +0.50% -2.26% +$0.7024 +$0.6946
Dollar/Norway 8.5320 8.5570 -0.26% -0.61% +8.5860 +8.5230
Euro/Norway 10.0437 10.0280 +0.16% -4.04% +10.0660 +10.0140
Dollar/Sweden 8.7149 8.7282 +0.24% +6.33% +8.7614 +8.7031
Euro/Sweden 10.2574 10.2327 +0.24% +1.80% +10.2753 +10.2362
(Reporting by Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama, Jonathan Oatis, Alexandra Hudson)