Dollar lacklustre; Swiss franc off highs

LONDON - The dollar was lacklustre against most major currencies apart from the yen on Friday as share prices recovered, while the Swiss franc pared gains after surging earlier in the session in thin trade.

By (Reuters)

Published: Fri 18 Dec 2009, 7:23 PM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 8:29 AM

The greenback, however, pared its losses against the euro late in European morning after an Iraqi official said Iranian troops had briefly entered Iraqi territory on Thursday and spent several hours at an Iraqi oilfield.

By 1226 GMT, the euro was flat on the day at $1.4351 after the report, down from around $1.4380 beforehand.

The Swiss franc had risen as investors unwound long euro positions in the approach to the year-end, helped by rumours of a coup in Pakistan that were quickly denied and by stop-loss orders which propelled it up.

The euro fell to 1.4910 francs, its weakest level since March when the Swiss National Bank (SNB) intervened to sell francs after announcing steps to fight deflation.

It was last at 1.4992 francs, down 0.1 percent on the day, just shy of the SNB’s perceived threshold of 1.50 francs.

“The markets are fairly illiquid, which is exaggerating moves,” said Lee Hardman, currency economist at Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ. “Momentum is key, and you don’t want to go against momentum right now.”

“There may not be much benefit for the SNB to intervene now, given the markets are so illiquid,” he added.

But traders said the euro’s rebound against the Swiss franc was partly on expectations the SNB would step in to sell its currency.

The euro also recovered ground after steep falls against the dollar and yen.

It showed little reaction to the German Ifo institute’s sentiment index which rose to 94.7 in December, slightly higher than expectations for 94.5, and up from 93.9 the previous month.

“From a historic perspective, the Ifo index is still at a moderate level. In this context, the ECB is not under pressure to shift gears on rates in the forseeable future,” said Ulrich Wortberg, economist at Heleba.

The euro had struggled the previous day, falling to a low of $1.4304, after S&P became the second ratings firm this month to downgrade Greece.

The pair was on track for its third weekly fall in sucession.

European stocks had risen 0.2 percent by midday trade, while U.S. stock futures were up 0.4 percent

Dollar, yen pressured

The dollar index, a gauge of the greenback’s performance against six major currencies, fell 0.2 percent to 77.545, off Thursday’s peak of 77.943 which was its highest since early September.

Yen crosses, which fell sharply in the wake of euro/Swiss franc’s fall, came off their lows on short-covering.

The euro was up 0.7 on the day at 129.80 yen, sterling was also up 0.6 percent at 146.21 yen and the Australian dollar rose 0.7 percent.

The dollar was up 0.4 percent at 90.23 yen.

The Bank of Japan kept interest rates steady as expected, but in a surprise move, changed its definition of long-term price stability, saying it would not tolerate zero inflation or falling prices.

BOJ Governor Masaaki Shirakawa said the new definition of long-term price stability did not mean monetary policy would be guided by short-term price moves alone.

“While the shared concern about the deflation by both the government and the BoJ should limit the upward pressure on the yen, their commitment remains uncertain and poses near-term risk of disappointment and a rebound of the yen,” said Barclays analysts in a note.

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