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CURRENCIES

US dollar dragged down by weak data

New York

THE US dollar fell broadly on Friday and was set for its biggest weekly drop in more than three months, dragged lower by weak US economic data.

US manufacturing output fell for a second straight month in February and factory activity in New York state was weaker than expected this month, offering further evidence of a sharp slowdown in economic growth early in the first quarter.

Friday's reports extended the streak of weak economic data and underscored the Federal Reserve's "patient" stance toward further interest rate increases this year. Fed officials are scheduled to meet next Tuesday and Wednesday to assess the economy and deliberate on the future course of monetary policy.

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Market voices on:

"Data today on factory growth and the Empire State index also underwhelmed. Consequently, the Fed next week is likely to keep in wait-and-see mode on interest rates, a cautious stance that's checked the dollar's rise," said Joe Manimbo, senior market analyst at Western Union Business Solutions.

The dollar index, was 0.21 per cent lower, last at 96.580, set for its biggest weekly loss since the first week of December. The move in the dollar sent the euro higher, last up 0.14 per cent to US$1.1318.

While no change in rates is expected next week after the Fed paused a multi-year rate-hiking cycle in January, officials might strike a more cautious view on the outlook for the global economy after a volatile week in currency markets.

The pound paused for breath but stayed on course for its biggest weekly gain in seven weeks on growing expectations that Britain will not crash out of the EU without a deal on March 29. Sterling last traded at US$1.3286, below Wednesday's nine-month high of US$1.3380 but up 2 per cent so far this week, the biggest such gain since late January after the UK parliament voted to seek a delay in Britain's exit from the EU, following a decision to avert a no-deal Brexit.

The yen remained firm after the Bank of Japan kept monetary policy steady but tempered its optimism that robust exports and factory output will underpin growth, giving a boost to its perceived safe-haven status. REUTERS