Dollar firm as Fed meeting and growth risks hold sway

By Tom Westbrook

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – The dollar was on a firm footing on Monday, as traders braced for a sharp U.S. 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 losses to buy 136.26 Japanese yen.

The U.S. 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% 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 (OTC:NABZY) currency strategist Rodrigo Catril.

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

The U.S. dollar index steadied at 106.650 on Monday, just below a two-decade high made in mid July at 109.290 and 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 tension is also running high, with Europe’s growth dependent on Russian gas and the Financial Times reporting China has made stark warnings against a possible trip to Taiwan by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Even the most optimistic outcome for Europe, said Societe Generale (OTC:SCGLY) strategist Kit Juckes, rests on an unknowable: energy security.

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

Sterling is vulnerable by extension and it slipped on Monday, even as markets reckon on a 60% chance the Bank of England would lift rates by 50 bp next week.

It was last down 0.2% to $1.1988. [GBP/]

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

Australian consumer price data is due on Wednesday and 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 (OTC:CMWAY)’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.”

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