By Chuck Mikolajczak
NEW YORK, Jan 17 (Reuters) - The dollar index hit a fresh one-month high on Wednesday after U.S. retail sales data signaled economic strength, dimming expectations for imminent rate cuts from the Federal Reserve.
Retail sales rose 0.6% last month after an unrevised 0.3% gain in November, the Commerce Department's Census Bureau said. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast retail sales gaining 0.4%.
While markets still see the Fed as likely to trim rates in March, expectations for a first cut of at least 25 basis points (bps) are down to 53.2%, according to CME's FedWatch Tool, from 65.1% on Tuesday.
"If we look at this morning's retail sales report, that points to growth on virtually every possible level and across every aggregate within the consumer spending sphere," said Karl Schamotta, chief market strategist at Corpay in Toronto.
"That points to underlying inflation pressure remaining sticky for longer, and that coincides with the fact that we're seeing a concerted push from policymakers to anchor market expectations out into the middle of the year for the first cut, and also to warn markets that the cadence of rate cuts is going to be slower than anticipated."
The dollar index =USD which tracks the greenback against a basket of currencies of other major trading partners, was up 0.12% at 103.42, after climbing to 103.69, its highest since Dec. 13.
The greenback jumped 0.67% on Tuesday, its biggest one-day percentage climb since Jan. 3, buoyed in part by comments from Fed Governor Christopher Waller. He said that while the U.S. was "within striking distance" of the Fed's 2% inflation goal, the central bank should not rush to cut its benchmark interest rate until it was clear lower inflation would be sustained.
The Fed's "Beige Book" of economic activity showed the majority of the 12 districts reported little or no change since the prior period, while nearly all noted a cooling labor market. Federal Reserve Bank of New York President John Williams is scheduled to speak at 3 p.m. EST (2000 GMT).
Also supporting the dollar was data showing China's economy grew 5.2% in 2023, slightly more than the official target, but it was a far shakier recovery than many expected while its property crisis deepened.
The dollar touched 148.52 against the rate-sensitive Japanese yen JPY=, its highest since Nov. 28, and was last up 0.71% at 148.23. The greenback also hit a two-month high of 7.2321 against China's offshore yuan CNH=.
The euro EUR= was down 0.01% at $1.0873 against the dollar, a day after falling 0.67% drop, even as European Central Bank (ECB) policymakers tried to dispel expectations of looming rate cuts.
Dutch central bank chief Klaas Knot told CNBC on Wednesday that investor bets for ECB rate cuts were excessive and possibly self-defeating because they could actually hold back monetary easing. ECB President Christine Lagarde told Bloomberg TV in Davos the central bank was on track to get inflation back to its 2% target but victory has not yet been won.
Sterling GBP= was last trading at $1.268, up 0.32% on the day, on track for its first gain against the dollar after three sessions of declines, as a rise in British inflation reinforced expectations that the Bank of England would be slower to cut rates than other central banks.
In cryptocurrencies, Bitcoin BTC= fell 1.9% to $42,603.
World FX rates https://tmsnrt.rs/2RBWI5E
Monthly change in US core retail sales https://tmsnrt.rs/3HjqFTE
(Reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak; Editing by Richard Chang)
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