SINGAPORE -(Dow Jones)- The risk-sensitive Australian dollar and emerging market currencies gained modestly against the U.S. unit Friday, after a brighter U.S. economic picture cheered markets in holiday-thinned trade.
The euro also gained slightly against the greenback, but moves were muted as volumes were extremely light with Japan closed and markets across the region easing into the Christmas and year-end holidays.
“It’s unusual that you see such wide spreads, and that just underlines how thin trade is,” said Nizam Idris, currency strategist at Macquarie Group.
Asia stocks gained across the board, buoyed by positive data from the U.S. Jobless claims fell unexpectedly, reaching their lowest level since April 2008. Holiday retail sales are looking solid, while the index of leading economic indicators advanced 0.5% in November for its seventh straight gain.
The smattering of upbeat news helped Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 close 1.2% higher, while South Korea’s Kospi Composite was up 0.9% at 0610 GMT.
“Sentiment overall is definitely positive, and the U.S. data helped,” said Idris. But movements higher in the Aussie dollar and Asian currencies are exaggerated by the overall lack of liquidity in markets, he added.
Another earthquake in New Zealand’s second-largest city of Christchurch knocked the kiwi dollar off course mid-morning in Asia, but the unit quickly recovered as initial reports showed the quake rattled nerves but left buildings standing. The New Zealand unit is at $0.7747, up from $0.7741 late in New York trade.
The euro is at $1.3070, after trading at $1.3052 late in New York. The dollar found support against the Japanese yen at Y78.08. The Aussie dollar is at $1.0163, versus $1.0131 late in New York trade, but off an intra-day high of $1.0184.
Interbank Foreign Exchange Rates At 00:50 EST / 0550 GMT Latest Previous %Chg Daily Daily %Chg Dollar Rates Close High Low 12/31 USD/JPY Japan 78.07-08 78.15-18 -0.12 78.22 78.08 -3.75 EUR/USD Euro 1.3068-70 1.3048-52 +0.15 1.3080 1.3048 -2.40 GBP/USD U.K. 1.5683-86 1.5675-80 +0.04 1.5703 1.5672 +0.49 USD/CHF Switzerland 0.9348-54 0.9359-62 -0.10 0.9360 0.9344 +0.01 USD/CAD Canada 1.0201-06 1.0205-11 -0.04 1.0213 1.0204 +2.57 AUD/USD Australia 1.0162-66 1.0128-33 +0.33 1.0180 1.0130 -0.68 NZD/USD New Zealand 0.7744-50 0.7732-39 +0.15 0.7756 0.7725 -0.63 Euro Rate EUR/JPY Japan 102.02-06 101.97-02 +0.01 102.15 102.04 -6.07
-By Martin Vaughan, Dow Jones Newswires