The dollar continued to make modest gains in Asian trading following a limited rally on Thursday after the release of weekly jobless claims. Initial jobless claims came in at the lowest level since 1973 at 255k, versus expectations of 279k. The dollar reached a high of 124.04 against the yen in early Asian session before dropping to 123.89.
Shares in China were higher on Friday despite disappointing manufacturing PMI data. The Caixin/Markit manufacturing PMI came in significantly below forecasts at 48.2 in the flash reading for July, against estimates of 49.7. This is the fifth month in-a-row that manufacturing PMI has been below 50 – where a figure below 50 indicates contracting activity. The data raised speculation that China’s central bank might soon cut interest rates again as existing stimulus measures do not appear to have been enough to reverse the slowdown. In contrast, Japan’s manufacturers fared better in July as the Markit/JMMA manufacturing PMI improved to 51.4 from 50.1 in June.
The Australian dollar, which is seen as a proxy for the Chinese economy, plunged to a new 6-year low of 0.7268 against the greenback after the data but later recovered to 0.7297. The kiwi was also dragged lower but managed to rebound to 0.6593 in late Asian session. New Zealand saw its first trade deficit of 2015 in June on higher imports, which put additional pressure on the kiwi.
Meanwhile, the euro continued to be supported by developments in Greece as the country moves closer to starting negotiations for its third bailout. The ECB on Wednesday raised the ELA cap to Greek banks by another €900 million and may start purchasing Greek government bonds if the bailout talks are successfully concluded. The euro was close to hitting the 1.10 level again in late Asian session as it rose to 1.099. It was also higher against sterling as it climbed to 0.7084.
The pound fell on Thursday after retail sales unexpectedly declined in June. It was flat against the dollar on Friday, trading around 1.55.
European PMI figures will be the main data to watch out for later in the day as French, German and Eurozone PMI for manufacturing and services are due to be released. For the US, there is more housing data on the way with new home sales figures to be published early in the US session.