Dollar firms on upbeat data, on track for weekly gains

dollarTOKYO: The dollar stood tall in Asia on Friday, on track for weekly gains against a currency basket, after upbeat US economic data gave investors reason to hope the US central bank will stick with its plan to hike rates.

The dollar index, which tracks the greenback against six major peers, added 0.1% to 97.474, and was up 0.6%for the week.

On Wednesday, the US Federal Reserve raised interest rates as widely expected, and also released some preliminary details of its plan to begin paring its US$4 trillion-plus debt holdings.

Ahead of the central bank’s announcements, however, downbeat inflation and retail sales data earlier sent the dollar into a tailspin.

“The dollar now seems to be getting over its shock from the core CPI release,” said Masafumi Yamamoto, chief currency strategist for Mizuho Securities in Tokyo.

He noted that the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) was relatively hawkish, releasing its plan for balance sheet reduction earlier than expected and keeping the interest rate outlook unchanged – despite market expectations for a slowing in the tempo of rate hikes.

“It will be increasingly difficult to short the dollar, he added.

Thursday’s run of US economic data gave dollar bulls some reason for cheer. The Labor Department said initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped 8,000 to a seasonally adjusted 237,000 for the week ended June 10, lower than the 242,000 that economists had predicted.

June readings of the New York Fed’s Empire State business conditions index and the Philadelphia Fed business conditions index also both surpassed economists’ expectations.

Higher yields underpinned the dollar. The benchmark US 10-year Treasury yield was last at 2.169% in Asian trade, above its US close of 2.162%. They had fallen as low as 2.103% on Wednesday after the downbeat data was published.

The dollar rose 0.2% to 111.11 yen, on track to gain 1 percent for the week, as investors awaited the outcome of a Bank of Japan meeting later on Friday, followed by a news conference with BOJ Governor Haruhiko Kuroda.

The BOJ is widely expected to maintain its ultra-easy monetary policy and reassure markets that it has no plans to hasten to follow the Fed’s tapering example.

The euro was steady on the day at US$1.1147, well below a seven-month high of US$1.1296 touched on Wednesday, and down 0.6% for the week.

Sterling edged up 0.1% to US$1.2762, getting a lift overnight after as many as three members of the Bank of England’s policy committee surprised financial markets by voting for a rise in interest rates. It was still down 1.4% for the week so far.

The unexpectedly tight 5-3 vote came despite signs of a slowdown in Britain’s economy, and uncertainty over Britain’s political outlook since Prime Minister Theresa May’s failure to win a parliamentary majority in last week’s election.