Solid US data and virus optimism supports dollar

Reuters Singapore | Updated on February 06, 2020 Published on February 06, 2020

Hong Kong dollar hit an almost three-year high overnight as attractive interest rates in the city attract deposits

The United States (US) dollar stood tall on Thursday, supported by firm domestic data and hopes the coronavirus' economic impact could be limited, even as the human toll continued to climb.

Another 73 people on the Chinese mainland died on Wednesday from the outbreak, the highest daily increase so far, bringing the total death toll to 563.

Infections stand at 28,018. Drugmakers and the World Health Organization (WHO) played down press reports about progress toward finding treatments, which had boosted traders' confidence.

Amid the uncertainty about the virus, currency investors also turned their attention to traditional market drivers, specifically US private payrolls, which posted their biggest jump in nearly four years, while a separate report showed a service sector pickup.

That helped the greenback higher and it drifted north in morning trade to a two-week high of 109.87 Japanese yen.

It sat at $1.0994 per euro, just below a one-week peak touched overnight against the common currency, while the Australian dollar inched ahead by 0.1 per cent.

“This is a market that was just wanting to go higher, it just needs a reason,” said Chris Weston, head of research at Melbourne brokerage Pepperstone.

“It's like a jack-in-the-box, with a lid that is just waiting to spring up. If you've got investable capital, you want to try and get it as far away from ground zero as you possibly can, and I think that's why you're seeing relative outperformance from markets which had less exposure,” he said.

Overnight the S&P 500 made a fresh record closing high and the dollar hit a two-month high against a basket of its peers.

Yet plenty of caution remains elsewhere, with oil prices stabilising but making only a cautious recovery with the size of the expected hit to demand still growing.

The virus has disrupted air travel, driven holiday cancellations, factory closures and production cuts.

“Places where the optimism isn't being felt include Thailand and Singapore, with room for easier monetary policy being explored and Korea, where it's way too real to relax,” said Kit Juckes, an analyst at Societe Generale.

The Thai baht and Korean won have both been heavily sold in recent weeks, each giving up 2 per cent since January 20 and both soft in morning trade on Thursday.

The Singapore dollar licked its wounds after posting its steepest drop in two years on Wednesday when the central bank said the currency has room to weaken as the virus weighs on the economy.

Elsewhere the British pound sat at $1.2991, while the Swedish krona jumped against the euro after a better than expected manufacturing survey sent it 0.5 per cent higher.

The Hong Kong dollar hit an almost three-year high overnight as attractive interest rates in the city attract deposits.

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Published on February 06, 2020
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