By Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss
NEW YORK, Oct 2 (Reuters) – The safe-haven yen and dollar rose on Friday after President Donald Trump tested positive for COVID-19, rattling investors just a month before November’s U.S. presidential election.
Data showing U.S. nonfarm payrolls rising less than expected in September, but with a drop in the unemployment rate, had little impact on currencies as markets were more focused on Trump’s health.
Trump, who had played down the threat of the coronavirus pandemic for months, said on Friday he and his wife Melania had tested positive for COVID-19 and were going into quarantine, upending the race for the White House.
The news sparked a sell-off in European stocks, before they pared some of their losses, and on Wall Street.
The yen made its sharpest gain in more than a month to reach a one-week high of 104.95 and was last up 0.3% on the day at 105.27 yen to the dollar JPY=EBS.
Implied volatility gauges for the yen rose to a four-week high of 7.6 vols JPY1MO= over the next month, signaling more choppy trading ahead.
“Trump’s positive COVID test is negative for risk sentiment because there is tremendous uncertainty,” said Greg Anderson, global head of foreign exchange strategy at BMO Capital Markets in New York, adding that the 74-year-old president’s health could worsen because of his age, or he could get sympathy votes.
“But until we get clarity, the safe havens will continue to surge,” he added.
Currencies seen as riskier bets fell across the board, with a fall in oil prices also pressuring the commodities-exposed Russian rouble RUB=, South African rand ZAR= and Australian dollar AUD=D3.
Data showing slowing U.S. employment had marginal FX impact, but it underscored the challenges the economy faced as it tries to emerge out of the recession.
In the last monthly employment report before the Nov. 3 presidential election, the Labor Department on Friday said nonfarm payrolls increased by 661,000 jobs last month after advancing 1.489 million in August. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast 850,000 jobs were created in September.
“The participation rate fell to 61.4%, suggesting that workers are giving up on the job search and are leaving the labor force,” said Karl Schamotta, chief market strategist, at Cambridge Global Payments in Toronto.
“Overall payrolls remain roughly 10.7 million jobs short of levels that prevailed in February – and the rate of improvement could continue to slow in the months to come as a fall in government stimulus spending cuts income and consumption levels.”
In midmorning trading, the dollar rose 0.1% against a basket of six major currencies =USD to 93.815, but remains down 0.8% for the week – its biggest weekly drop since late August.
The euro EUR=EBS fell 0.3% to $1.1716.
Currency bid prices at 10:01AM (1401 GMT)
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(Reporting by Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss; additional reporting by Iain Withers; editing by Jonathan Oatis)
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