Dollar weakens after data shows U.S. wage gains were modest

By Karen Brettell

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The U.S. dollar weakened on Friday after data for September showed jobs gains that fell short of expectations while wages increases slowed on an annualized basis during the month, easing concerns about a large run-up in inflation.

Nonfarm payrolls increased by 134,000 jobs last month, the fewest in a year, though data for July and August was revised to show 87,000 more jobs added than previously reported.

Average hourly earnings increased eight cents, or 0.3 percent, in September after rising 0.3 percent in the prior month. With September’s increase below the 0.5 percent gain notched during the same period last year, that lowered the annual increase in wages to 2.8 percent from 2.9 percent in August, which was the biggest rise in more than nine years.

“Wage inflation is creeping higher, but it has not accelerated as the market was fearing,” said Russell Price, senior economist at Ameriprise Financial Services in Troy, Michigan.

Investors have been watching for indications that wages may rise at a faster pace as companies, including Amazon, raise minimum wages.

Still, the data was seen as solid and supportive of the Federal Reserve continuing to tighten monetary policy.

“There is no material slowdown in the U.S. economy. These numbers will confirm the Fed remains on track for steady rate hikes,” said Paresh Upadhyaya, director of currency strategy at Amundi Pioneer Asset Management in Boston.

The dollar reversed direction several times before settling at lower levels after the data. The dollar index fell as low as 95.516, from around 95.770 before the data, before rising back to 95.678.

Hawkish Fed speakers and strong U.S. economic growth have supported the greenback in recent weeks. A dramatic surge in Treasury yields this week that may attract investors seeking higher returns is also seen as positive for the U.S. currency.

“Certainly these higher yields are giving a better bid to the U.S. dollar across the board,” said Dean Popplewell, chief currency strategist at Oanda in Toronto.

Given recent strength, investors are also likely to be cautious about being short the U.S. currency before a long weekend, Popplewell said, adding that “there is good demand for U.S. dollars definitely on pullbacks.”

The U.S. bond market will be closed on Monday for the Columbus Day holiday though stock markets are open.

Additional reporting by Herb Lash and Richard Leong