JPY weaker ahead of machinery orders, AUD down before jobs data

The Japanese yen traded slightly weaker in early Asian trade on Thursday ahead of machinery orders data and the Australian dollar tended weaker ahead of jobs data.

USD/JPY traded at 102.05, up 0.05%, while AUD/USD held at 0.9380, down 0.11%, ahead of closely watched data sets in each country.

In Japan, new machinery orders data for February is due at 09850 local time (2350 GMT), with an expected drop of 3.0% month-on-month. Later in the day, Bank of Japan board member Ryuzo Miyao speaks at 1030 local time (0130 GMT)

In Australia, April inflation expectations from the Melbourne Insititue are due at 1100 local time (0100 GMT), with the previous up 2.1%, followed by employment data at 1130 local time (0130 GMT) with an expected gain of 5,000 jobs and unemployment rate flat at 6.0%.

Also up later today is a mix of data from China including the trade balance for March with a surplus of $900 million expected compared to a deficit of $22.9 billion in the previous month. Also due in China are foreign exchange reserves for the first quarter and new loans in March.

Overnight, the dollar took a dive after the minutes from the Federal Reserve's March policy meeting revealed monetary authorities unanimously voted to scrap a threshold that would have triggered interest-rate hikes.

The Federal Reserve Board of Governors unanimously voted to scrap a threshold at which interest rates would rise once the unemployment rate hits 6.5%, according to the minutes of the Fed's March policy meeting.

In the past, the Fed had indicated rates could rise when the unemployment rate hits or approaches 6.5% provided that figure accompanied a 2.5% inflation rate.

Today, the headline unemployment rate stands at 6.7%, not far from the previous threshold, though inflation remains well below 2.5%, prompting the Federal Reserve to do away with its rate-hike target.

'Participants agreed that the existing forward guidance, with its reference to a 6.5% threshold for the unemployment rate, was becoming outdated as the unemployment rate continued its expected gradual decline,' the minutes read.

'Most participants felt that the quantitative thresholds had been very useful in communicating policy intentions when employment was far from mandate-consistent levels, but, with the economy having moved appreciably closer to maximum employment, the forward guidance should emphasize that the Committee is focusing more on a broader set of economic indicators.'

The dollar dropped on the news, as Fed Chair Janet Yellen stating that policy must remain accommodative for some time to come.

The March policy meeting minutes reflected that stance.

'With respect to forward guidance about the federal funds rate, all members judged that, as the unemployment rate was likely to fall below 6.5% before long, it was appropriate to replace the existing quantitative thresholds at this meeting,' the minutes read.

'Almost all members judged that the new language should be qualitative in nature and should indicate that, in determining how long to maintain the current 0 to 0.25% target range for the federal funds rate, the Committee would assess progress, both realized and expected, toward its objectives of maximum employment and 2% inflation.'

The US Dollar Index, which tracks the performance of the greenback versus a basket of six other major currencies, was down 0.02% at 79.59.

On Thursday, the U.S. Labor Department is to release its weekly report on initial jobless claims.