Dollar nurses losses as currency markets eye recovery prospects

Reuters SINGAPORE | Updated on May 21, 2020 Published on May 21, 2020

The dollar nursed broad losses on Thursday and riskier currencies held gains as investors looked to a bright recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, shrugging off diabolical forecasts and rising Sino-US tension.

In bullish overnight trade, the risk-sensitive Australian dollar broke free from two months of rangebound moves to hit a ten-week high of $0.6616. The kiwi hit a ten-day top of $0.6157 and both seemed poised for further gains.

“I think they might keep going,” said Westpac FX analyst Imre Speizer.

“It's one big rally and that rally hasn't finished yet,” he said. “The trend is clearly still upward for equities and currencies are mostly following it, even if not as strongly.”

The S&P 500 is up about 35% from its March lows and the Australian dollar has rallied about 20% since then.

Both the Aussie and the kiwi were lower in morning trade, but moves were slight as markets await a speech from Australia's central bank chief at 0230 GMT and purchasing manager surveys in Britain, Europe and the United States later on.

Japan's flash purchasing managers' index on Thursday showed manufacturing activity slumping again in May.

Overnight, traders interpreted economic outlook downgrades in the US Federal Reserve's April meeting minutes as likely to herald more stimulus, pushing stocks higher.

“Almost everywhere, policy makers are continuing to stress that whatever resources are required will be made available,” ANZ analysts said in a note on Thursday.

The euro hit its highest in three weeks, the Swiss franc its highest in two weeks and the Chinese yuan its highest in one week, while emerging market currencies also surged.

In Asia, the euro last sat just below that peak at $1.0975 and the dollar inched higher on the Japanese yen to 107.68.

The yuan was steady at 7.1067 in offshore trade, even as diplomatic tensions between China and Australia simmered and after the United States took fresh aim at Beijing's handling of the coronavirus on Wednesday.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called the $2 billion that Beijing has pledged to fight the pandemic “paltry compared to the cost that they have imposed on the world.”

The exception to the broad dollar weakness was the British pound, which remains under pressure following inflation data that fuelled more speculation the Bank of England would cut interest rates below zero.

“(It) keeps the debate about negative rates alive and kicking,” said Kit Juckes, macro strategist at Societe Generale.

“Poor old sterling,” he said. “There is clearly a better case for shorts in sterling/yen than euro/yen now, and even more so in being short sterling/Aussie as well as sterling/yen, give the slight risk-on bias and the move higher in resource prices.”

Published on May 21, 2020

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