FOREX-Dollar firm as virus' spread and stimulus stalemate spur caution
By Tom Westbrook
SINGAPORE, Oct 26 (Reuters) - The dollar found support on Monday, as surging coronavirus cases in Europe and the United States and a lack of progress toward a U.S. stimulus package put traders in a cautious mood, although hopes for a Brexit trade deal held sterling steady.
Against a basket of currencies =USD, the greenback traded between steady and slightly firmer early in the Asia session, hovering around the middle of a range it has held for months.
Against the risk-sensitive Australian dollar and New Zealand dollars, it gained about 0.1%. Sterling GBP=, however, rose a tiny bit to $1.3046.
The United States has recorded its highest ever number of new COVID-19 cases for two consecutive days, while Italy has ordered restaurants and bars to shut by 6 p.m. as a fresh wave of infections sweeps Europe.
U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Sunday that she expected a White House response on Monday regarding the latest stimulus spending plan - but there have been few tangible signs that a long-stalled deal is actually nearer.
"The combination of receding hopes for a pre-election fiscal deal and the news on COVID and potentially stricter lockdowns is enough to take a bite out of the stock market," said Ray Attrill, head of FX strategy at National Australia Bank.
He said a dip in S&P 500 futures ESc1 had spilled over into currency markets, where traders are also in a cautious mood ahead of the U.S. election on Nov. 3.
The safe-haven Japanese yen JPY= edged higher to 104.72 per dollar and the euro EUR= slipped 0.1% to $1.1848.
Analysts reckon that a Joe Biden victory next week, especially if the Democrats win control of the Senate, would likely herald a large U.S. stimulus package and weaken the dollar as the spending improves market sentiment.
"There's nothing to suggest that Biden's poll gap is narrowing, but you can expect that the risk tone can become a bit more cautious as we get closer to next Tuesday," Attrill said from Sydney.
"But against that, there is a view that I would concur with, that if by the middle of next week we have got a clean Biden win ... the short-term reaction to that will be very risk positive and U.S.-dollar negative."
The slight dip in the Aussie AUD=D3 came despite early support after the announcement of a $6.6 billion all-cash takeover bid from Coca-Cola European Partners CCEPC.L for local bottler Coca-Cola Amatil CCL.AX.
Elsewhere hopes for a breakthrough in the trade-deal stalemate between Britain and Europe held the pound steady above $1.30. GBP/
Over the weekend, Britain's Northern Island minister said there was a good chance of a trade deal.
Later on Monday, investors will follow a German sentiment survey at 0900 GMT, following a robust Purchasing Managers' Index figure last week, and U.S. housing data, due at 1400 GMT.
China's top leaders chart the country's economic course for 2021-2025 at a key meeting starting on Monday, and may adopt a lower or more flexible growth target.
The yuan CNH=, which has soared more than 7% since May as China has led the world's recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, was steady in offshore trade at 6.6631 per dollar. CNY/
The Malaysian ringgit MYR= opened a fraction firmer on Monday after King Al-Sultan Abdullah rejected on Sunday a request by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin for him to declare a state of emergency.
Currency bid prices at 8:12AM (012 GMT)
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(Reporting by Tom Westbrook; editing by Richard Pullin)
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