NEW YORK, April 23 — The dollar surged to a more than two-year high yesterday, continuing to draw support from Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell’s comments on Thursday that seemed to back a half a percentage point tightening at next month’s policy meeting, as well as his remarks on a likely consecutive rate hikes this year.
The dollar index, a gauge of the greenback’s value against six major currencies, hit 101.33, the highest since March 2020, It was last up 0.6 per cent at 101.16, the largest daily percentage gain since mid-March. So far this year, the dollar index has gained 5.7 per cent.
“The macro fundamentals are still pointing to a higher dollar as short-term Treasury yields vs comparable maturity on sovereign yields are positive and inflation is high globally,” said Stan Shipley, fixed income strategist, at Evercore ISI in New York.
“These macro drivers work well until the dollar reaches a level where economic growth is significantly impaired and the credit worthiness of US government debt is suspect,” he added.
Powell on Thursday said a half-point interest rate increase “will be on the table” when US central bank meets on May 3-4.
Fed funds futures have started to price in a third 50-basis-point hike in July, after the same increase in May and June, and nearly 250 basis points of cumulative increases in 2022.
“Even if the Fed does back-to-back-to-back 50 basis-point hikes, that’s still at a rate that is at the bottom end or below neutral,” said Calvin Tse, head of Americas Developed Markets Strategy (FX, Rates, Equities), at BNP Paribas in New York.
“They likely don’t feel that it’s excessive tightening because even after these hikes are put in place, policy will still be loose, still accommodative.”
Across the Atlantic, the euro fell 0.4 per cent to US$1.0792, after European Central Bank officials sent mixed policy signals.
ECB President Christine Lagarde struck a dovish tone on Thursday by saying the central bank might need to cut its growth outlook a day after ECB dove Luis de Guindos joined some policymakers in calling for an early end of the bank’s asset buying scheme coupled with a rate rise in July.
Investors are also waiting for Sunday’s run-off of French presidential elections between incumbent Emmanuel Macron and far-right challenger Marine Le Pen, with the latest polls showing Macron winning with 55 per cent of the votes.
Le Pen’s win could provoke tensions with European allies and weigh on the euro, analysts said.
Sterling fell against the dollar to its lowest since November 2020 after sales data and recent Bank of England comments signalled a possible slowdown in the expected rate hike path.
The pound fell 1.5 per cent against the dollar to US$1.2832 a, after hitting US$1.2830, the lowest since October 2020.
Against the yen, the dollar rose 0.2 per cent to 128.55 yen. The yen is still within striking distance of its weakest level since April 2002 at 129.43 yen per dollar hit on Wednesday.
Since the beginning of the year, the yen has lost more than 10 per cent of its value against a resurgent dollar. A weak yen has raised the cost of import prices such as commodities, which are still priced in dollars.
Traders overall remained wary of intervention from Japanese monetary officials to strengthen the yen.
Japanese television broadcaster TBS reported on Friday that Japan and the United States likely discussed the idea of coordinated currency intervention to stem further yen falls during a bilateral finance leaders’ meeting.
Japanese Finance Minister Shunichi Suzuki described recent yen falls as “sharp” and said he agreed with US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen to communicate closely on currency moves. — Reuters