NEW YORK (Reuters) - The dollar scaled more than six-year peaks against the yen on Thursday after data showed a drop in U.S. claims for jobless benefits last week, reinforcing the market’s view that U.S. interest rates will rise earlier than expected.
The dollar index, a measure of the greenback’s value against six currencies, climbed to its strongest level in more than four years, supported by the Federal Reserve’s rate forecasts that were higher than those projected in June. The outlooks were provided after the Fed’s monetary policy meeting on Wednesday.
The Fed’s statement and remarks by Fed chair Janet Yellen about the U.S. economy were more cautious, but that did not prevent the dollar from rallying.
Some strategists were surprised at the extent of the dollar’s rally and felt market participants have put too much credence in the rate forecasts, instead of what Fed officials said.
“I just think that the dollar will be in a consolidation phase in the short term after yesterday’s sharp gains,” said Greg Moore, senior currency strategist, at RBC Capital Markets in Toronto.
“The fact of the matter is the Fed will still be data-dependent. Even Janet Yellen yesterday was reluctant to commit to any rate scenario,” he added.
The dollar rose as high as 108.96 yen, the strongest since late August 2008. It last traded at 108.74, up 0.4 percent.
The U.S. currency extended its gains after the government reported that initial claims for unemployment benefits dropped by 36,000 to a seasonally adjusted 280,000 for the week ended Sept. 13, the lowest since July.
The four-week moving average of claims, considered a better measure of labor market trends as it irons out week-to-week volatility, slipped by 4,750 to 299,500.
The dollar index hit a more than four-year peak of 84.782 .DXY and was last at 84.299, flat on the day.
The greenback retraced gains versus the Swiss franc, trading down 0.7 percent at 0.9339 franc. On Wednesday following the Fed meeting, the dollar hit a one-year high against the Swiss currency.
The euro recovered from 14-month lows versus the dollar to trade 0.4 percent higher at $1.2917.
Sterling, meanwhile, made more progress, the result of growing conviction among traders that a “No” vote will prevail in Thursday’s Scottish referendum, heading off the threat of a shock to the UK political and financial status quo.
The pound was last up 0.6 percent at $1.6380.
“As Scots continue to go to the polls, the markets show a considerable sense of calm and confidence that the United Kingdom will not lose a member,” said John Kicklighter, chief currency strategist at DailyFX, a unit of U.S. retail FX broker FXCM in New York.
But investors have hedged that bet with protection in case Scots vote “Yes” to independence and sterling tumbles, analysts said.
Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Chizu Nomiyama