Euro up slightly after ECB meeting; U.S. jobless claims weigh on dollar
* Euro in choppy action after ECB decision
* U.S. jobless claims weaker than expected
* Higher-risk currencies firm
* Dollar and yen off recent highs
By Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss and Sujata Rao
NEW YORK/LONDON, July 22 (Reuters) - The euro was little changed to slightly higher against the dollar on Thursday in choppy trading, after the European Central Bank met expectations by pledging to keep interest rates at record lows for even longer, and following weaker-than-expected U.S. jobless claims data.
The ECB's dovish pivot - which follows its recently released strategy review - at a time when many peers are mulling exiting pandemic-era stimulus is expected to keep the single European currency under pressure.
"U.S. jobless claims didn't really help the dollar, but looking at the euro, it was really hard for the ECB to outdove market expectations," said Vassili Serebriakov, FX strategist at UBS in New York. "The market is not pricing a 10-basis-point hike until 2024 anyway."
ECB President Christine Lagarde didn't really say anything to change the market's cautious outlook on the euro zone. She said a fresh wave of the coronavirus pandemic could pose a risk to the region's economic recovery.
In mid-morning trading, the euro was slightly higher against the dollar at $1.1792 EUR=EBS . On Wednesday, it hit a 3-1/2-month low of $1.1752.
The dollar index, meanwhile, slid 0.1% to 92.742 =USD , weighed down by softer-than-expected U.S. jobless claims data.
Data showed initial claims for state unemployment benefits increased 51,000 to a seasonally-adjusted 419,000 for the week ended July 17, the highest level since mid-May. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast 350,000 applications for the latest week.
"These numbers provide more evidence of deceleration," said Karl Schamotta, chief market strategist at Cambridge Global Payments in Toronto.
"In continuing to print above expectations, weekly claims are suggesting a loss of momentum in the U.S. labor market – something that could push Federal Reserve tightening plans further into the future and put further pressure on bond yields," he added.
Elsewhere, growth-focused currencies such as the Australian dollar gained as a global risk sell-off abated further. The Aussie dollar was last up 0.1% at US$0.7370 AU=D3 .
The gains in higher-risk assets come after robust company earnings lifted Wall Street and European bourses, allowing investors to look past concerns that the Delta Covid-19 variant would dampen the economic recovery.
"The consensus is that (the Delta strain) does not pose an immediate risk to the recovery," delaying reopening by three months at the most as countries ramp up vaccination drives,"
National Australia Bank analyst Tapas Strickland told clients.
Sterling GBP=D3 firmed 0.3% to $1.3755, recovering from 5-1/2-month troughs while in cryptocurrencies, bitcoin BTC=BTSP slipped into negative territory after Wednesday's 7.9% jump - the biggest since mid-June. It was last flat at $32,137.
The dollar slipped 0.1% against the yen, another safe haven, to 110.15 yen JPY=EBS .
Currency bid prices at 10:23AM (1423 GMT) Description
U.S. Close Pct Change
+110.3550 +110.0200 Euro/Yen
+130.2900 +129.7300 Dollar/Swiss
+0.9156 Sterling/Dollar GBP=D3
+$1.3691 Dollar/Canadian CAD=D3
World FX rates Link
ECB inflation forecast annotated Link
Reporting by Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss in New York and Sujata Rao in London; Additional reporting by Tommy
Wilkes; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Mark Heinrich
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