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DOLLAR FALLS AS JOBLESS RATE RISES TO HIGHEST LEVEL IN YEAR

SHARE DOLLAR FALLS AS JOBLESS RATE RISES TO HIGHEST LEVEL IN YEAR

The dollar fell Friday against all major currencies except the Japanese yen after the government said the U.S. unemployment rate for April rose to its highest level in more than a year.

Gold prices softened. Gold fell 50 cents a troy ounce to $370.90 on the Commodity Exchange in New York. Republic National Bank later quoted a bid of $371.30 an ounce, unchanged from Thursday.The government said the U.S. unemployment rate rose to 5.4 percent in April from 5.2 percent in March.

"That seemed to be what set it off," Mike Ballow, a currency market analyst with Dean Witter Reynolds Inc., said of the dollar's decline.

Signs of economic weakness, such as higher unemployment, may induce the Federal Reserve to ease interest rates. Lower rates reduce the attractiveness of returns on dollar-denominated investments, compared with those for other currencies.

"Right now, people (traders) only are concentrating on interest rates," said Walter Simon, a vice president at Bank Julius Baer & Co. in New York.

Also working against the dollar was a rise in bond prices, which sent bond yields lower, Simon said.

In addition, traders said the dollar's fall was hastened when its price crossed certain technical support levels in relation to other currencies.

Markets in Japan were closed for the Citizens' Day holiday. In London, the dollar traded at 158.25 yen, up from 158.10 yen late Thursday. In New York, the dollar bought 158.30 yen, up from 158.05 yen a day earlier.

In London, the British pound moved higher, rising to $1.6595 from $1.6425 late Thursday. In New York, the pound cost $1.6635, more expensive than Thursday's $1.6410.

Other late dollar rates in New York, compared with late Thursday, included: 1.6660 West German marks, down from 1.6828; 1.4430 Swiss francs, down from 1.4550; 5.5930 French francs, down from 5.6450; 1,221 Italian lire, down from 1,233.25; and 1.1629 Canadian dollars, down from 1.16625.

Other late dollar rates in Europe, compared with late Thursday's rates, included: 1.6710 West German marks, down from 1.6817; 1.4435 Swiss francs, down from 1.4540; 5.6060 French francs, down from 5.6315.