Dollar Retreats After Data-Related Gains

The dollar retreated modestly in Asia on Thursday, with the Australian dollar grabbing the spotlight after the release of stellar employment figures for February.

The ICE dollar index , which measures the greenback against a basket of six other currencies, sat at 82.921, down just slightly from 82.936 in late North American trading on Wednesday.

The WSJ dollar index , which measures the greenback against a wider basket, traded at 73.85, slipping from 73.90 late the previous day.

The dollar had gained on Wednesday after February U.S. retail sales exceeded economist forecasts, adding to an upbeat view of the world’s largest economy.

But the currency headed in the other direction Thursday, as the dollar  slipped to 96.06 yen from ¥96.17 in late trading Wednesday, while the British pound  reached $1.4932, up from $1.4919 late the previous day.

On the other hand, the dollar managed to rise a bit against the euro  which traded at $1.2949, down from $1.2955 in the previous session, when it reached a three-month low.

“Data-wise, it’s a very quiet day in U.K. and euro zone. Focus will be on Spain’s [bond] supply,” RBC Capital Markets strategist Sue Trinh wrote shortly before the European trading open.

“Most majors stuck to very tight ranges overnight, as all the action was concentrated in the Australian and New Zealand dollars,” she said.

The Australian dollar  surged to $1.0364, up from $1.0289 in late trading Wednesday, after data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed Australia’s jobless rate remained steady at 5.4% in February against economist expectations for a rise to 5.5%.

The economy added 71,500 jobs in the month, far outstripping expectations for a net gain of 10,000 jobs.

“A much stronger than expected employment number … saw [Reserve Bank of Australia] rate-cut expectations getting pared back sharply,” said Trinh.

For the New Zealand dollar , a decision by the Reserve Bank of New Zealand to leave its policy rate at 2.5% saw the kiwi drop to 81.77 U.S. cents, after starting the session around the 83-cent mark.

The statement accompanying the rate decision was dovish, said Trinh, with the RBNZ citing the intensifying drought and ongoing headwinds from a stronger New Zealand dollar and fiscal drag.