TOKYO/SYDNEY: The euro took a dip on Thursday as euro zone finance ministers failed to secure a new debt agreement with Greece after a marathon meeting, while the Australian dollar dived almost one percent after surprisingly weak local jobs data.
The common currency slipped to $1.1309 from a high of $1.1353 while it eased to 135.95 yen, having earlier scaled a three-week peak of 136.70. Against sterling it pulled back to 74.20 pence, having hit a seven year trough of 73.85 on Wednesday.
Euro zone finance ministers were unable to agree with Greece on a way forward on the country’s unpopular bailout and even on a joint statement on the next procedural steps, after seven hours of talk.
Both sides, who will meet again on Monday, played down the setback, insisting there had been no rupture and few market players would have expected any concrete deal at this stage.
Still, the news poured cold water on optimism sparked after CNBC had reported earlier that an agreement was reached in principle.
“This Greek drama has been a huge overhang over the market,” said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at Wunderlich Securities in New York.
“Nobody wanted to have a sloppy Greek exit disrupt the markets right now in what is a fragile European economy to begin with.”
With no real conviction to buy the euro, the dollar index held near a three-week high of 95.115 set overnight.
On the yen, the greenback slipped slightly to 120.10 yen but still remained within striking distance of a five week peak of 120.48, supported by rise in U.S. bond yields.
The safe haven yen could weaken further as some players may unwind their buying in the yen against recent underperformers such as the euro and the Aussie, said Shusuke Yamada, chief FX strategist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch in Tokyo.
“The market has priced in concerns on Greece, Ukraine and oil prices. So if we see positive developments, the yen could fall further,” he said.
But for now, commodity currencies took a turn for the worse as oil prices slid anew after U.S. stockpiles hit record highs.
The Australian dollar fell to as low as $0.7644, not far from a 5 1/2-year low of $0.7627 touched earlier this month after poor local job data boosted expectations of a rate cut by the Reserve Bank of Australia.
The jobless rate jumped to 6.4 percent, from 6.1 percent, an unusually large shift that took it to levels not seen since August 2002 while employment fell 12,200 in January, when analysts had looked for a rise of 5,000.
“The Aussie dollar’s reaction was not surprising as it has reacted badly to soft data in recent times,” said Roger Bridges, chief global strategist for interest rates and currencies at Nikko Asset Management, seeing a likely test of $0.7627.
“(The Aussie drop) is reflecting the fact that the currency market is re-evaluating the chances of a rate cut,” he added.
Interbank futures YIB give a 60 percent chance of an easing to 2.00 percent in March, from 44 percent before the data, and are almost fully priced for a move by April.