Euro hit by dovish ECB, Asian stocks await U.S. jobs data

Reuters

By Ian Chua

SYDNEY (Reuters) - The euro languished at seven-week lows on Friday in the wake of dovish comments from the European Central Bank, while a jump in U.S. bond yields underpinned the dollar and kept Asian stocks in check.

Investors were also sidelined ahead of U.S. payrolls data that should cement the case for the U.S. Federal Reserve to begin scaling back stimulus later this month.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was flat in early trade, following a 0.4 percent gain on Thursday. It was on track to end the week up more than 2 percent. Tokyo's Nikkei eased 0.2 percent, but was still up more than 5 percent this week.

The euro wallowed at $1.3118, having slid more than a full U.S. cent to be 0.8 percent lower on the week. Against the yen, it retreated to 131.26 from a near two-week peak of 132.14.

Investors sold the common currency after the ECB said it stood ready to act if needed to bring money market rates down and help nurture a "very, very green" recovery.

ECB President Mario Draghi made those comments as global government bond yields have risen sharply, tracking U.S. Treasuries in expectations for the Fed to start withdrawing support.

Indeed, U.S. 10-year note yields hit 3.0 percent on Thursday for the first time since July 2011, having jumped from near 1.6 percent in four short months and providing a major support for the dollar in the process.

The greenback popped back above 100 yen to return to levels not seen since late July. Coupled with a weaker euro, the dollar scaled a seven-week peak against a basket of major currencies.

Latest U.S. data showed a solid expansion in the services sector, while private employers added 176,000 jobs in August, suggesting that non-farm payrolls could be surprisingly strong.

Some analysts said payrolls in line with expectations of 180,000 new jobs would likely be enough for the Fed to start tapering stimulus at the Sept 17-18 meeting.

"With the release of the non-farm employment change and the official unemployment rate tonight, the prospect of tapering in 11 days time is growing ever larger," said Evan Lucas, market strategist at IG in Melbourne.

Worries about reduced central bank support have weighed on demand for gold and riskier assets, with emerging markets in the targetted by investors.

Indonesia has had to raise interest rates to support the collapsing rupiah currency, while India's new central bank boss this week impressed some with an unexpectedly detailed and wide-ranging plan that saw the rupee and stocks rally on Thursday.

The top five emerging market powers: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) have also pledged to set up a $100 billion fund to stabilise currency markets.

However, it looked unlikely to be in place soon enough to temper the effects of an expected pullback of U.S. stimulus.

The Group of 20 emerging and developed powers gathered in St. Petersburg for a summit struggled to find common ground over the turmoil faced by emerging markets.

"Our main task is returning the global economy towards steady and balanced growth. This task has unfortunately not been resolved," Russian President Vladimir Putin said.

Leaders at the summit also had to contend with the tough question of whether to support U.S. military strikes in Syria.

There is little in the way of market-moving economic news out of Asia, leaving the focus squarely on U.S. jobs data due at 1230 GMT.

(Editing by Eric Meijer)

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