By Karen Brettell
NEW YORK (Reuters) – The dollar jumped on Friday after data showed jobs growth beat expectations in February, backing up the view of Federal Reserve officials who have said that a recent rise in U.S. government bond yields is justified by an improving economic outlook.
The jobs improvement came amid falling new COVID-19 cases, quickening vaccination rates and additional pandemic relief money from the government, putting the labor market recovery back on firmer footing and on course for further gains in the months ahead.
Nonfarm payrolls surged by 379,000 jobs last month, after rising 166,000 in January. In December, payrolls fell for the first time in eight months. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast February payrolls increasing by 182,000 jobs.
“This is a rather impressive nonfarm payroll report,” said Edward Moya, senior market analyst at OANDA in New York. “There’s momentum in the labor market and what that’s doing is providing I think more optimism that the growth picture is looking even better.”
A rollout of COVID-19 vaccines and impending U.S. fiscal stimulus have boosted confidence in an economic recovery, adding fuel to expectations of higher inflation.
“As the economy reopens, we are beginning to see significant legs to the reflation story. This strong NFP bolsters the story, which is pressing the Fed to move up the timeline for rate hikes,” said Justin Hoogendoorn, managing director of fixed income at Piper Sandler Financial Strategies in Chicago.
The dollar index jumped as high as 92.201, the highest since Nov. 25, before retracing back to 91.965, still up 0.36% on the day. The euro fell as low as $1.1892, the lowest since Nov. 26, before bouncing back to $1.1915, down 0.49% on the day.
Benchmark 10-year Treasury yields hit a one-year high of 1.625%, and were last at 1.551%.
The jobs data comes after Fed Chairman Jerome Powell on Thursday disappointed investors who were expecting him to express concerns about rising bond yields.
Powell stuck to his stance of keeping interest rates low until the economy has recovered, adding that the sell-off in Treasuries was not “disorderly”.
“The U.S. dollar rose sharply higher post-Powell comments (as) many in the market I sense were looking for stronger rhetoric from the Fed to put a break on further rallies in yields,” said Neil Jones, head of FX sales at Mizuho Bank.
St. Louis Federal Reserve President James Bullard said on Friday that the run-up in yields reflects improving expectations for the economy.
The Swiss franc and Japanese yen continued to weaken against the greenback on Friday on expectations that global growth will lag that of the United States.
The Swiss franc fell to a seven-month low of 0.9318 francs per dollar, before paring losses to 0.9306.
The yen plumbed a nine-month low of 108.63 yen per dollar, before bouncing back to 108.33.
Risky currencies including the Australian dollar also weakened against the greenback. The Aussie was last down 0.46% at $0.7683. It has dropped from a three-year high of $0.8007 last week.
Sterling briefly fell below $1.38 to a three-week low. It was last down 0.42% at $1.3838.
In the cryptocurrency market, bitcoin rose 1.83% to $48,893. Ethereum dropped 0.84% to $1,525.
(Additional reporting by Joice Alves and Ritvik Carvalho in London and Karen Pierog in Chicago: Editing by Alex Richardson)