US Markets

FOREX-Dollar steadies as FX markets focus on Powell testimony


The dollar struggled for direction on Tuesday, stuck within recent ranges as investors waited for U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell to speak at a congressional hearing later in the day.

By Elizabeth Howcroft

LONDON, Jan 11 (Reuters) - The dollar struggled for direction on Tuesday, stuck within recent ranges as investors waited for U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell to speak at a congressional hearing later in the day.

Global stocks edged higher, following a late-session recovery for Wall Street, while U.S. Treasury yields were a touch higher. Equity markets have had a weak start to the year, falling due to bets that the Fed will tighten policy earlier than initially expected.

Investors are hoping that Powell will give clues as to the timing of monetary policy tightening, when he answers questions from the Senate Banking Committee as he seeks a second four-year term as head of the Fed.

Powell will tell Congress that the bank will "prevent higher inflation from becoming entrenched", pre-released comments show.

At 1151 GMT, the U.S. dollar index was around 0.1% lower on the day, at 95.842 - well below the 16-month highs it touched at the end of November amid increasing hawkishness from Fed policymakers.

Joel Kruger, currency strategist at LMAX Digital, said that investors will be listening for any information about the Fed's attitude to inflation "because that's the thing that nobody can really nail down and the Fed keeps manoeuvring as far as the guidance goes".

"If we continue to see downside pressure in stocks… not only do we have dollar demand on yield differentials but you also have dollar demand on flight to safety," he said.

Some of Wall Street's biggest banks now expect four U.S. interest rate hikes this year, starting in March.

Meanwhile, the new head of Germany's central bank said the euro zone's inflation surge is not entirely temporary and that there could be higher-than-projected readings. His comments challenge the European Central Bank's narrative on price pressures.

Euro-dollar was stuck within recent ranges, around $1.13425 EUR=EBS, but the euro hit a seven-week high versus the Swiss franc, with the pair changing hands around 1.0507. EURCHF=EBS

This follows a rise in sight deposits held by the Swiss National Bank last week, which is a possible sign that the central bank is intervening to limit the franc’s strength.

"Outflows from the CHF may continue today if Powell sends hawkish signals to the market and UST yields rise again, assisting a more decisive break above 1.0500 in EUR/CHF," wrote ING.

The Swiss franc is also acting as a safe-haven to hedge political risk from Italy, ING said. The Italian Parliament will convene to choose a new president this month with Premier Mario Draghi seen as the leading candidate. Italian government bond yields rose as investors fretted about the country's political stability.

The U.S. dollar was up around 0.1% against the Japanese yen at 115.370. JPY=EBS

Japanese households' inflation expectations rose to a two-year high, a quarterly survey showed, in a sign the rising cost of living was starting to change public perceptions about future price moves.

The British pound touched a two-month high versus the U.S. dollar at $1.362 in early trading. GBP=D3

The Australian dollar was up 0.1% at $0.71805 AUD=D3, helped by data showing retail sales surpassed forecasts for a second month running in November.

After successfully containing the coronavirus for most of the pandemic, Australia has been swamped by the rapid spread of the Omicron variant, with infections near record levels.

COVID-19 hospitalisations in the United States hit a record high on Monday, as a surge in infections caused by the highly contagious Omicron variant strains health systems in several states.

U.S. consumer inflation data for December is due to be released on Wednesday.

Elsewhere, bitcoin was back up around $42,000, having dropped below $40,000 on Monday for the first time since September BTC=BTSP.

World FX rates

(Reporting by Elizabeth Howcroft; Editing by Peter Graff and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

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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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