Employment costs expanded in April at their fastest pace since before the financial crisis
The dollar advanced against the yen on Friday, nearing its strongest level in about a month, after official data showed labor costs and U.S. economic growth improved modestly during the first quarter.
One dollar USDJPY, +0.21% bought ¥111.59 in recent trade, compared with ¥111.26 late Thursday in New York. The greenback traded as high as ¥111.80 earlier in the week, its strongest level in nearly a month.
The U.S. economy expanded by a meager 0.7% in the first quarter, the weakest pace of growth in three years. However, the 0.8% increase in employment costs, widely believed to be a leading indicator for consumer-price inflation, was stronger than economists polled by MarketWatch had expected. This provided some relief for the dollar, which has weakened sharply against the yen since the beginning of the year.
First-quarter economic growth has been consistently underwhelming in recent years, and Friday’s numbers, while weak, weren’t much lower than markets had expected, said Kit Juckes, chief currency strategist at Société Générale.
Instead, investors focused on the fact that labor costs rose at the fastest pace since before the financial crisis, Juckes said.
“We had enough warning that things would be pretty weak [in the first quarter], and in the grand scheme of things the number was weak, but not weaker than expected,” Juckes said.
In other currency trading, the euro and the pound advanced against the buck, with the shared currency higher after stronger-than-expected inflation data, while sterling brushed off a downbeat report on British economic growth.
Strong showings by these European currencies helped weigh on the ICE U.S. Dollar IndexDXY, -0.20% a measure of the greenback’s strength against a basket of six rivals. It was off 0.1% at 98.94. The WSJ Dollar Index BUXX, -0.07% which gauge’s the greenback’s strength against 16 currencies, was marginally lower at 89.76.
The widely watched ICE dollar index was on track to post a weekly drop of more than 1%, and a monthly decline of nearly 2% as the end of April nears.
Euro pop: The euro EURUSD, +0.3771% bought $1.0911 in recent trade after Eurostat’s preliminary eurozone inflation report for April, released early in the European day, showed core prices jumped 1.2%, the fastest pace since 2013, and higher than the 1% consensus estimate. Headline inflation rose to 1.9%, above the 1.8% estimate.
The shared currency bought $1.0874 late Thursday in New York.
“The news was taken with gusto by the market because it minimizes the possibility of any additional [quantitative easing] by the [European Central Bank],” said Boris Schlossberg, managing director of FX strategy at BK Asset Management, in a research note published on Friday.
ECB President Mario Draghi said Thursday that he and his colleagues had left their inflation outlook unchanged during a two-day policy meeting that concluded on Thursday.
Read: ECB live blog recap: Mario Draghi sees diminished downside economic risks
Sterling strength: The pound GBPUSD, +0.1705% fetched $1.2919 in recent trade, compared with $1.2905 late Thursday in New York. Sterling pushed through $1.29 early Friday and largely held to higher ground even as data showed the U.K. economy grew a slower-than-expected 0.3% in the first quarter. A slowdown in services activity, particularly retail, clipped growth, the Office for National Statistics said.
“To be fair, today’s weak growth from the U.K. figures were hardly surprising,” said Fawad Razaqzada, market analyst at Forex.com, in a note to clients. “After all, most of leading economic indicators had been weaker throughout Q1 as households and businesses prepared for the start of the Brexit process.”
The U.K. currency has outperformed many of its rivals this month, rising more than 3% against the greenback, with much of those gains following U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May’s decision to call for an early general election to be held on June 8.