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$A falls after mixed jobs figures

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AAP

2013-02-07

The Australian dollar hit a fresh three-month low after local employment data failed to give the market much optimism about the economy.

At 1700 AEDT on Thursday, the local unit was trading at 103.30 US cents, down from 103.56 cents on Wednesday.

It dropped as low as 102.97 US cents, late on Thursday morning after official figures showed that the unemployment rate was steady at 5.4 per cent in January.

Most economists say the reason the jobless rate didn't rise was because of a fall in the number of people looking for work.

The Australian Bureau of statistics data also showed that an extra 10,400 jobs were added across the country in January but that full-time employment fell for the third consecutive month.

Westpac chief currency strategist Robert Rennie said the employment figures were a mixed result.

"The good news in the data was that total employment rose but the bad news was that full-time employment fell for the third month in a row," he said.

"So I guess there was something for everyone there, but given the weakness that we've seen in recent sessions in the Aussie dollar, traders were more inclined to sell it."

Mr Rennie says he believes the currency will bounce back.

"If you look at a chart of the Aussie dollar for the last six or so months, we've basically been in a 102 US cents to 108 cents range," he said.

"I guess as you push down towards the low 103s (US cents) you'll start to see the demand coming from those who have been waiting for a dip in the currency to buy."

A key focus for markets would be the outcome of the European Central Bank meeting during the offshore session on Thursday night.

At 1700 AEDT, the Australian dollar was at 96.69 Japanese yen, down from Wednesday's close of 97.07 yen, and at 76.36 euro cents, a touch up from 76.35 euro cents.

Meanwhile, Australian bond futures prices were higher.

At 1630 AEDT on Thursday, the March 10-year bond futures contract was trading at 96.555 (implying a yield of 3.445 per cent), up from 96.500 (3.500 per cent) on Wednesday.

The March three-year bond futures contract was at 97.190 (2.810 per cent), up from 97.160 (2.840 per cent).

Nomura rates strategist Martin Whetton said bond futures prices opened strongly after a last-minute rally in the US and held on to those gains throughout the local session.

"We've done not much today. We rallied on the open because of what the US did and we pretty much just left it at that for the day," Mr Whetton said.

He said the Australian bond market had no reaction to news that the jobless rate remained unchanged in January.

Jason Cadden and Roje Adaimy