Euro climbs, focus on policy signals from Draghi

LONDON (Reuters) – The euro rose to the day’s high against the dollar on Thursday after the European Central Bank held interest rates unchanged at record lows, as expected, with the focus now turning to President Mario Draghi’s press conference.

Draghi is likely to drive home the case for ultra-loose monetary policy, but any hint that current policy settings are appropriate for the time being could see the euro rise towards $1.15, a level seen last in October last year.

“It will be interesting to see whether Draghi reverts back to old tricks and tries to talk down the euro in the absence of being able to actually use policy tools in order to drive it lower,” said Craig Erlam, senior analyst at OANDA, a currency broker.

Last month, while the ECB delivered aggressive easing measures, the euro rallied after Draghi said there was probably no need for more rate cuts if the latest stimulus worked. Since then, inflation expectations, based on the five-year, five-year forward rate, have eased a bit, keeping investors on the alert for any dovish tone from Draghi.

That is despite sharp criticism by German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, who said that negative interest rates were hurting small German savers and fuelling the rise of the eurosceptic AfD party.

At Thursday’s meeting, the ECB kept its rate on bank overnight deposits, generally seen as its primary interest rate tool, at -0.40 percent.

The euro was up 0.3 percent at $1.1335 <eur=>, not far from Wednesday’s peak of $1.1388, and has gained 4.6 percent since the last ECB meeting on March 10 when the ECB eased policy. Against the yen, it edged higher to 124.25 yen. (EURJPY=).</eur=>

Lutz Karpowitz, strategist at Commerzbank (DE:CBKG) said investors will focus on what Draghi has to say about future easing.

“Should he be any more outspoken on the matter than last time round, euro/dollar is likely to ease further. I would certainly steer clear of long positions,” Karpowitz added.

Still, with three major central bank meetings looming, traders cited a lack of market conviction on direction bets. The Federal Reserve is scheduled to hold its policy review on April 26-27, while the Bank of Japan will meet on April 28.

BOJ officials are growing more receptive to stepping up monetary easing measures by buying more ETFs invested in shares, as weak global growth threatens Japan’s fragile economic recovery, sources have told Reuters.

While no action is expected from the Fed, traders will be looking for clues in its policy statement that the central bank is preparing markets for a June interest rate hike. Fed Chair Janet Yellen has repeatedly said the Fed will be cautious in tightening policy, prompting markets to barely price in a hike this year.

 

U.S. Treasury yields have fallen as a result, though they hit three-week highs on Wednesday as oil and stocks gained, which helped the dollar. [US/]