May 11, 2020 / 6:15 AM / 25 days ago

FOREX-Dollar holds gains as focus shifts to life after lockdowns end

* Graphic: World FX rates in 2020 tmsnrt.rs/2RBWI5E

* Dollar starts week on front foot

* Markets look for recovery from global pandemic

* Pound eyes gradual easing of coronavirus lockdown

By Stanley White

TOKYO, May 11 (Reuters) - The dollar rose against the yen on Monday as moves by the United States and other countries to re-open their economies raised hopes for a quicker global recovery from a deep recession triggered by the coronavirus health crisis.

Sterling was little changed against the dollar and the euro after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson outlined plans to slowly ease coronavirus lockdown restrictions.

Data on Friday showed the United States shed 20.5 million jobs in April, the steepest plunge in payrolls since the Great Depression, but traders are starting to look past such grim economic numbers as they bet on future growth.

“The bad news about the U.S. labour market was pretty much as expected, and people now assume that economic activity will restart sooner rather than later in the United States and Europe,” said Tohru Sasaki, head of Japan markets research at J.P. Morgan Securities in Tokyo.

“We don’t have to be so bearish on the dollar.”

While the dollar often trades as a safe-haven asset given its reserve currency status, it has recently developed some positive correlation with Wall Street as investors focus on yields.

On Friday, Wall Street indexes rallied, defying the gloom from one of the worst U.S. jobs reports in decades.

The dollar rose 0.28% to 106.95 yen on Monday, and was steady at $1.0843 against the euro.

The U.S. currency changed hands at 0.9710 Swiss franc .

The Australian dollar, which is often traded as a proxy for risk because of its close ties to China’s economy and global commodities, recovered from an early fall and rose to$0.6546.

Across the Tasman Sea, the New Zealand dollar steadied against its U.S. counterpart at $0.6137.

Sentiment for the kiwi is likely to improve after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she will ease more coronavirus restrictions on Thursday.

California, Michigan, and Ohio, three important states for U.S. manufacturing, are taking steps to allow factories and some businesses to resume work in a boost to sentiment.

Currency futures suggest the greenback could continue to edge higher.

Speculators trimmed net short positions in the U.S. dollar to $9.148 billion in the week ended May 5 from $10.23 billion the previous week, according to calculations by Reuters and U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission data released on Friday.

The pound was little changed at $1.2419 on Monday. Against the euro, sterling held steady at 87.32 pence.

Johnson, in a televised address on Sunday, announced a limited easing of coronavirus restrictions that have shuttered much of the economy for weeks, including encouraging some people to return to work.

The government wants the rest of the United Kingdom to take the same approach, but there were immediate divisions, with the leaders of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland saying they were sticking with the existing “stay-at-home” message.

Johnson’s government has faced criticism over its handling of the pandemic. At nearly 32,000, Britain’s coronavirus death toll is the second highest in the world, behind the United States.

Some traders say uncertainty about the virus still poses risks for financial markets.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence is not in quarantine and plans to be at the White House on Monday, a spokesman said on Sunday, despite media reports that he was self-isolating after a staffer tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

However, three senior officials guiding the U.S. response to the pandemic have chosen to self-quarantine.

Wuhan, the epicentre of the novel coronavirus outbreak in China, reported on Monday its first cluster of infections since a lockdown on the central Chinese city was lifted a month ago.

Officials in China have also reported a new cluster of infections in the northeastern province of Jilin.

In the onshore market, the yuan traded at 7.0830, supported by the Chinese central bank’s pledge to roll out more stimulus to prop up the slowing economy.

The novel coronavirus first emerged in China late last year and then spread across the globe. (Reporting by Stanley White Editing by Shri Navaratnam, Sam Holmes and Kim Coghill)

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