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Australian dollar slightly weaker ahed of Stevens parliament testimony

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Shutterstock photo - - The Australian dollar eased slightly Wednesday ahead of testimony by the central bank chief, while the Japanese yen was flat ahead of trade data.

AUD/USD traded at 0.9298, down 0.04%, and USD/JPY held at 102.92.

Reserve Bank of Australia Governor Glenn Stevens appears before the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Economics at 0930 Sydney time (2330 GMT). This is a

twice-yearly event where Stevens will be asked several questions on monetary policy.

Also in Australia, the Westpac-MI leading index is due at 1030 (0030 GMT). The index has been pointing to sub-trend growth in the last few readings and more of the same is expected in July.

In Japan, there's July trade data at 0850 Tokyo time (2350 GMT). The trade deficit forecast is for ¥703 billion, the 25th straight monthly shortfall.

Overnight, the dollar traded higher against most major currencies on Tuesday after a fresh batch of U.S. housing indicators coupled with solid inflation reports kept expectations strong for the Federal Reserve to wind down stimulus programs this fall.

The U.S. Commerce Department said that the number of building permits issued in July jumped 8.1% to 1.052 million units from June's total of 973,000. Analysts expected building permits to rise by 2.5% to 1.0 million units in July.

The report also showed that U.S. housing starts soared by 15.7% last month to hit 1.093 million units from June's total of 945,000, far past expectations for an increase of 8.6% to 969,000 units.

A separate report showed that the U.S. consumer price index rose 0.1% last month from June and 2.0% on year, both figures meeting estimates.

Core consumer prices, which exclude food and energy costs, inched up by 0.1% last month, missing expectations for a 0.2% gain, though the year-on-year rate came in at 1.9%, which met expectations.

On Monday, the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index increased to 55.0 in August, a seven-month high, from 53.0 in July, beating estimates for a reading of 53.0.

The data fueled market speculation that the Federal Reserve will close its asset-purchasing stimulus program in October and hike interest rates some time in 2015, which would allow the dollar to rise.

Waning fears that the Russian-Ukraine conflict will escalate also bolstered the greenback.

The euro, meanwhile, continued to come under pressure due to ongoing expectations that monetary stimulus programs in the U.S. will wind down at the same time the European Central Bank takes steps to loosen policy.

The US Dollar Index, which tracks the performance of the greenback versus a basket of six other major currencies, was flat at 81.941.

On Wednesday, the Federal Reserve is to publish the minutes of its latest policy meeting. offers an extensive set of professional tools for the financial markets.

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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