March 26, 2020 / 10:52 AM / 2 months ago

FOREX-Dollar slips ahead of expected surge in U.S. jobless claims due to coronavirus

* Euro and Japanese yen rise vs dollar

* Sterling flat vs dollar, falls vs euro

* Graphic: World FX rates in 2019

By Olga Cotaga

LONDON, March 26 (Reuters) - The dollar fell further on Thursday ahead of key U.S. data that is expected to show a surge in unemployment benefit claims as companies lay off workers due to the rapid spread of the coronavirus.

Investors welcomed the passage of a $2 trillion U.S. stimulus package to offset the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, but there are already indications that some American states will need more money for medical supplies.

Economists polled by Reuters expect U.S. jobless claims to have risen by 1 million in the week to March 21 - an indicator of much the spread of the virus has affected the world’s largest economy.

If the number meets market expectations, it would be well above the previous peak seen during the 2008 global financial crisis. The record before that was just a little under 700,000 in 1982 when the United States was going through a recession.

Many analysts, however, have put the number between 1 million and 4 million.

“The wide range of estimates, from around 1 million to 4 million, show that we lack historical references to really understand the impact of this unique and probably massive crisis hitting the economy,” said Christopher Dembik, head of macro analysis at Saxo Bank.

The dollar shed 0.6% of its value against the euro to trade at $1.0947, having earlier touched a one-week low of $1.0951. It also lost 1.1% of its value versus the safe-haven Japanese yen and was last exchanging hands for 109.99 yen .

The $2 trillion package includes one-off payments to individuals, increased benefits for the unemployed and aid to companies, including loans and debt reliefs to small businesses, plus assistance to states and local governments.

The United States also opened the taps for short-term dollar funding as the Federal Reserve swapped dollars for foreign currencies with other major central banks.

This has helped to ease the cost of swapping three-month yen into dollars, which blew out to 144 basis points (bps) over interbank rates this month as stress in the dollar-funding market caused by the pandemic led to a shortage of the American currency.

“The Fed is winning the battle to get enough dollars into the global financial engine to keep it turning over. Demand for dollars through the Fed/BOJ swap line remains higher than in Europe, but the USD/JPY basis has now narrowed,” said Kit Juckes, macro strategist at Societe Generale.

The three-month basis swap in dollar/yen was last at 54 bps.

Elsewhere, sterling was neutral against the dollar at $1.1879 and 0.4% weaker versus the euro at 92.03 pence .

The Australian and New Zealand dollars, both closely linked to the global commodity trade, were rising against their U.S. counterpart after falling during the Asian trading session.

Reporting by Olga Cotaga; Editing by Pravin Char

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