By Marc Jones
LONDON (Reuters) – The dollar hit a new 11-year high against major currencies on Friday as investors bet the monthly U.S. jobs report would add to the chance of rate hikes, even as the European Central Bank embarks on a 1 trillion euro campaign of bond-buying.
The euro broke below $ 1.0980 for the first time since September 2003 as it continued its steady march lower. [FRX/]
The same balance of risks saw the gap between German and U.S. bond yields stretched to its widest in more than a quarter of a century as government bond yields across the 19-country euro zone took another step lower. [GVD/EUR]
Equity investors were playing it safe, however, ahead of the U.S. jobs data.
Europe’s benchmark FTSEurofirst 300 <.FTEU3> was barely changed in early trading after Thursday’s news that the ECB will start its long-awaited QE program on Monday had seen it hit a seven-year high.[.EU]
Analysts polled by Reuters expect U.S. payrolls due later to have increased 240,000 last month and the jobless rate to have ticked down to 5.6 percent from 5.7 percent.
Although that would be a slight slowdown in the headline trend it would mark the 12th straight month of job increases above 200,000, the longest such run since 1994.
Philip Marey, a U.S.-focused strategist at Rabobank, said the Fed is happy with the labor market in terms of interest rate hikes, but slack prices were a concern.
“It is the (low) inflation picture that will deter them from pulling the trigger on interest rates early,” he said.
Against a basket of major currencies the dollar <.DXY> was at the new 11-year year highs, but dealers saw little prospect of significant further moves before the payroll numbers at 0730 ET.
The recent run of U.S. economic news has been mixed at best, leading analysts to steadily downgrade forecasts for growth this quarter. A strong jobs report could offset that and give the Fed reason to stick to its tightening timetable at the next policy meeting on March 17-18.
In contrast, the picture in Europe has been steadily improving.
Data on Friday showed German industrial output rose more than expected in January, notching up its fifth straight monthly increase, while it also climbed 0.4 percent year-on-year in Spain.
“The positive result in January and the upward revision of the data from the previous months underline that the recovery of the German economy is continuing,” its economy ministry said.
(Additional reporting by Wayne Cole in Sydney Editing by Jeremy Gaunt)
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