LONDON (Reuters) -Backed by a $2 trillion U.S. government spending plan, the dollar consolidated its first-quarter gains on Thursday, holding near multi-month highs while a new lockdown in France weighed on the euro.
In early trades in Europe, the dollar index stood at 93.286, close to a five-month high of 93.439 reached on Wednesday.
The U.S. currency gained 3.57% against the basket of six major currencies during the first quarter of 2021, its best quarterly performance since 2018 with investors betting on a swift and robust economic recovery.
The gains came as the euro, the biggest component in the index, suffers from concerns the euro zone’s economic recovery is being hampered by a third wave of COVID-19 infections.
President Emmanuel Macron ordered France into its third national lockdown and said schools would close for three weeks while the currency bloc also lagged the United States in vaccination programmes.
“As long as the news flow on either side of the Atlantic is more or less diametrically opposed there is really not much to be said in support of the euro,” Commerzbank analyst Antje Praefcke wrote to her clients.
U.S. President Joe Biden announced his long awaited $2 trillion-plus job plan, including $621 billion to rebuild infrastructure.
The euro changed hands at $1.1720, after hitting a near five-month low of $1.1704. Against the British pound, the common currency was up 0.08% after hitting a 13-month low of 0.85025 pound.
The U.S. currency held firm against the yen after ending March with its biggest monthly gains since November 2016.
The dollar traded at 110.77 yen, having risen to as much as 110.97, its highest in a year.
As the U.S. dollar maintained its strength, the Australian dollar dropped 0.67% to $0.7542, a low last seen in late December.
The offshore Chinese yuan eased 0.3% to 6.582 to the dollar, as data showed China’s factory activity in March expanded at the slowest pace in almost a year.
While currency trading is expected to slow towards the Easter holidays in many parts of the world, the dollar could gain if key U.S. economic indicators surprise on the upside.
A survey by the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) on Thursday is expected to show a further improvement in manufacturing activity.
Economists expect Friday’s U.S. job data to show an increase of about 650,000 payrolls in March while the latest chatter in the market is it could swing higher, and even top one million.
The ADP National Employment Report showed on Wednesday U.S. private payrolls increased by 517,000 jobs last month, slightly lower than market forecasts.
In the crypto asset market, bitcoin maintained its firmness over the past several days to trade at $58,721.
Reporting by Julien Ponthus and Hideyuki Sano; Editing by Himani Sarkar and Christopher Cushing