Dollar firm as Fed meeting and growth risks hold sway

The markets are priced for a 75 basis-point rate hike, with about a 9 per cent chance of a 100 bps hike

By Reuters

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Published: Mon 25 Jul 2022, 10:43 AM

The dollar was on a firm footing on Monday, as traders braced for a sharp US interest rate hike this week, and looked for safety, as data points to a weakening global economy.

The greenback was up slightly against most majors in the Asia session, trading at $1.0208 on the euro, and steadying Friday's losses to buy 136.26 Japanese yen.

The US Federal Reserve concludes a two-day meeting on Wednesday and markets are priced for a 75 basis-point (bp) rate hike, with about a 9 per cent chance of a 100 bp hike.

"Market reaction will turn on how hawkish Chair [Jerome] Powell sounds, with his determination to reduce inflation in the face of slowing growth," said National Australia Bank currency strategist Rodrigo Catril.

The slowdown has driven traders to pull back on tightening expectations, worried that a wobbly economy can only withstand so many rate rises. However, investors are yet to take the dollar down too far from milestone highs, given the global outlook is so clouded.

The US dollar index steadied at 106.650 on Monday, just below a two-decade high made in mid-July at 109.290.

Analysts don't see much in the way of hurdles to the dollar ahead. That notion found currency in data on Friday, which showed business activity in the United States contracted for the first time in nearly two years this month. Activity in the euro zone retreated for the first time in over a year, and growth in Britain was at a 17-month low.

Geopolitical tensions are also running high, with Europe's growth dependent on Russian gas and the Financial Times reporting China's stark warnings against a possible trip to Taiwan by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

According to Societe Generale strategist Kit Juckes, even the most optimistic outcome for Europe rests on an unknowable: energy security.

"That still leaves the euro, to all intents and purposes, unbuyable for the time being, [and] probably for the rest of this year, given that the leverage [that] gas supplies can afford the Russian President is at its greatest in the winter," he said.

Sterling is vulnerable by extension, and it slipped on Monday, even as markets reckon on a 60 per cent chance the Bank of England would lift rates by 50 bps next week. It was last down 0.2 per cent to $1.1988.

The Australian and New Zealand dollars have also retreated from one-month highs. Each fell about 0.3 per cent in the Asia session, with the Aussie last at $0.6907 and the kiwi falling to $0.6235.

Australian consumer price data, due on Wednesday, is forecast to hit a three-decade high. Such a hot number could lend support to the Aussie by ramping up bets on rate hikes, though analysts warned the backdrop was mostly negative.

"The Australian dollar will mainly be a function of the world economic outlook," said Commonwealth Bank of Australia's Head of International Economics, Joe Capurso.

"The darkening outlook suggests the Aussie has more downside than upside risk and can test $0.6800 this week," he added.

Bitcoin fell 3 per cent, and back below its 50-day moving average to $21,851.


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