TOKYO (Reuters) – A flight to safety bid pushed the dollar higher against its peers on Thursday after dire retail and factory data showed the severity of the collapse in U.S. economic activity caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic.

FILE PHOTO: An employee counts U.S. dollar banknotes at a foreign exchange house in Monterrey, Mexico, November 9, 2016. REUTERS/Daniel Becerril

The dollar’s index against a basket of six other major currencies =USD stood at 99.632, maintaining the 0.8% gain from the previous session.

The euro backed off to $1.0911 EUR= from a two-week high of $1.0980 while the dollar stood at 107.42 yen JPY=, having added 0.2% on Wednesday.

U.S. data underlined fears that damage to the economy from the coronavirus outbreak will be deep and protracted.

Retail sales dropped a record 8.7% in March from the previous month, underscoring the unprecedented scale of economic damage from measures to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.

A report from the Federal Reserve separately showed manufacturing output plummeted 6.3% last month, the biggest decrease since February 1946.

The New York Federal Reserve also reported on Wednesday that its Empire State manufacturing index, which tracks activity in the sector for New York State, fell to an all-time low.

All those grim numbers poured cold water on recent improvements in market sentiment and hopes the outbreak may be nearing its peak with many developed countries looking to re-open their economies as soon as next month.

“Given the scale and breadth of the U.S. shutdown, our best guess is the economy contracts by around 13% peak-to-trough before we start to see a rolling process of re-opening in the United States from mid-May,” said James Knightley, Chief international economist at ING.

“This will involve some ongoing form of social distancing meaning that a return to ‘business as usual’ could take many months – we don’t expect the lost output to be fully recovered until mid-2022.”

The British pound traded at $1.2523 GBP=D4 having lost nearly 1% in the previous session.

The Australian dollar changed hands at $0.6318 AUD=D4 following a drop of 1.9% on Wednesday, its biggest since March 18, ahead of local employment data due at 0130 GMT.

A plunge in crude prices weighed heavily on oil producing countries’ currencies.

The Norwegian krona softened 1.4% to 11.470 per euro EURNOK= in the previous session.

The Canadian dollar CAD=D4 nursed losses at C$1.4116 CAD=D4. The Bank of Canada on Wednesday added to the suite of assets it is purchasing to cushion the economic blow of the coronavirus pandemic.

U.S. crude prices fell to an 18-year low and Brent lost more than 6% on Wednesday after the United States reported its biggest weekly inventory build on record. [O/R]

Graphic: World FX rates in 2020 here

Reporting by Hideyuki Sano; Editing by Sam Holmes

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