Dollar sucked into downward spiral by U.S. twin deficits

The dollar was ending 2020 in a downward spiral on Thursday with investors wagering a global economic recovery will suck money into riskier assets even as the yawning U.S. twin deficits argue for an ever cheaper currency.

The euro steamed ahead to $1.2305 , having hit its highest since April 2018 with a gain of almost 10% for the year. The next stops for the bull train are $1.2413 and $1.2476, on the way to the 2018 peak at $1.2555.

The dollar also dropped to 103.16 yen, but stopped just short of the December low at 102.86. Trade was thin in Asia with Japan and South Korea on holiday.

Sterling jumped as lawmakers approved a post-Brexit trade deal with the European Union. The pound stretched as far as $1.3641, levels not seen since May 2018.

Against a basket of currencies the dollar had sunk to 89.553, having touched it lowest since April 2018. That left it down 7.2% on the year, and no less than 13% on the 102.99 peak hit during the market mayhem of mid-March.

The next target is 89.277 and then 88.251, which was the absolute low in 2018.

The prospect of a brighter 2021 has lessened the need for the safe-haven dollar, while burnishing the attraction of riskier assets especially in emerging markets.

Bears have also resurrected the “twin deficits” excuse for shorting the dollar – that the explosion in the budget and trade deficits means more dollars being printed and moved abroad.

From this perspective the new U.S. stimulus bill is dollar negative as it adds to the nation’s debt, and President-elect Joe Biden is promising a lot more next year.

The country is also hemorrhaging dollars on its trade account where the deficit on goods hit a record $84.8 billion in November as imports surged past pre-pandemic levels.

Likewise, the current account deficit widened to a 12-year high in the third quarter and there was a large shortfall in net financial transactions as Americans borrowed more from abroad.

In contrast, the European Union runs a huge current account surplus, largely thanks to Germany, so there is a natural inflow to euros through trade.

“The U.S. dependence on foreign savings is increasing and at 3.4% of GDP, it is approaching a danger zone where it will become increasingly difficult to attract savings without further dollar weakness, or higher interest rates,” said Alan Ruskin, global head of G10 FX at Deutsche, in a note.

“The deterioration in the ‘twin deficits’ will do nothing to improve USD sentiment, even if it does not as yet justify extreme USD undershooting either.”

Dollar lifts gold amid worries over U.S. stimulus delay

Gold inched higher on Wednesday as the dollar eased, while investors weighed a top U.S. Republican leader’s decision to postpone a vote on increased pandemic relief payments.

Spot gold rose 0.3% to $1,883.88 per ounce by 0313 GMT. U.S. gold futures were up 0.2% at $1,887.40.

“A weaker dollar is enough to create a small upward momentum for confidence to be maintained in gold,” said Michael Langford, director at corporate advisory AirGuide.

Gaining a greater exposure to gold makes sense in a low-yield and weakening dollar environment, he added.

The dollar index fell 0.2%, hovering close to its lowest level in more than two years, as traders looked past Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s decision to put off a vote on increasing Covid-19 relief checks to $2,000 from $600.

Gold is seen as a hedge against inflation and currency debasement likely to result from large stimulus measures rolled out this year to cushion the impact of the pandemic.

Investors now await Jan. 5 Georgia runoff elections that will determine which political party controls the U.S. Senate.

Under a Democrat-controlled Senate, fiscal policy is likely to stay loose, which will weigh on the dollar and be bullish for precious metals, Avtar Sandu, a senior commodities manager at Phillip Futures, said in a note.

Meanwhile, coronavirus cases continued to soar globally, with the first case of a new infectious virus variant being detected in the United States and new infections hitting a record high in Britain.

Among other precious metals, silver rose 0.7% to $26.37 an ounce, platinum climbed 1.4% to $1,064.50 and palladium gained 0.8% to $2,346.18.

Dollar languishes amid pandemic aid optimism, pound meanders

The dollar languished near a 2-1/2-year low on Tuesday with demand for safe-havens flagging as U.S. lawmakers pushed forward with a Covid-19 relief package.

The House of Representatives voted on Monday to increase stimulus payments to qualified Americans to $2,000 from $600, sending the measure on to the Senate for a vote.

Last week’s Brexit agreement, while bare bones, also supported the outlook for global growth, lifting Asian stocks on Tuesday following Wall Street gains.

“Optimism abounds, and it’s generally coming from equity markets,” said Bart Wakabayashi, Tokyo Branch manager of State Street Bank and Trust.

“The dollar is very heavy, and that will continue into next year.”

The dollar index was little changed at 90.194 in holiday-thinned trading, hovering near the 89.723 level reached on Dec. 17 for the first time since April 2018.

Short positions on the dollar swelled in the week ended Dec. 21 to $26.6 billion, the highest in three months, according to Reuters’ calculations based on data released by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission on Monday.

The euro rose 0.1% to $1.22260 early in the Asian session, hovering near the 2-1/2-year high of 1.22735 touched earlier this month.

The dollar bought 103.740 yen, another haven asset.

Sterling rose 0.1% to $1.3477 following a two-day decline. It was as high as $1.3625 this month, a level not seen since May 2018.

Investors have taken profits in the UK currency following the confirmation last week of a Brexit trade deal that was widely expected.

While the agreement came as a relief to investors, the pact leaves Britain far more detached from the EU, analysts say.

“People are still trying to figure out what this Brexit agreement means,” weighing on the pound, said State Street’s Wakabayashi.

“Nothing has really been agreed on financial markets, and that’s a big negative for the UK.”

Bitcoin slipped 0.8% to $26,841, continuing its retreat from the all-time high of $28,377.94 set Sunday.

U.S. dollar dips as Brexit trade deal nears; sterling gains

The dollar slipped on Wednesday, after gaining for three straight sessions, as risk appetite rose on the expectation of an imminent Brexit trade deal between the UK and the European Union.

Sterling and the euro took off against the greenback after the Brexit headlines, as did currencies tied to higher risk appetite such as the Australian, Canadian, and New Zealand dollars.

Britain and the European Union appeared close to clinching a long-elusive trade agreement on Wednesday. A reporter with Britain’s Daily Mail said a deal had already been done, and speculation flew that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson would make an announcement on Wednesday evening.

U.S. Treasury yields rose in the wake of the Brexit news, in line with those in Europe and the UK.
In afternoon trading, the dollar fell 0.1% to 90.39.

The dollar index has weakened more than 6% this year as investors bet the U.S. Federal Reserve will keep its monetary policy ultra-accommodative. Expectations for further declines by the dollar are helping buoy stock markets and emerging-market currencies.

“We have a lower uncertainty premium compared to March. The addition of the vaccines…has basically established what we have known since the summer which is a weaker dollar,” said Mazen Issa, senior FX strategist, at TD Securities in New York.

David Rosenberg, chief economist and strategist at Rosenberg Research in a research note said technical measures suggested an increasing likelihood of an oversold bounce in the dollar.
“Longer-term, the dollar remains negative— trend, moving averages and intermediate-term momentum all remain in downtrends,” he added.

U.S. data, meanwhile, was mixed on Wednesday but had little currency impact.

Initial jobless claims unexpectedly fell last week, though remained elevated, and a separate report showed consumer spending fell last month for the first time since April. U.S. new home sales were disappointing as well.

The euro rose 0.2% to $1.2180. The single currency earlier this month hit its highest in more than two-and-a-half years.

Sterling extended gains versus the dollar, rising above $1.35. The pound which had earlier firmed on the lifting of a French border blockage, last traded up 0.9% at $1.3482. Against the euro, the pound jumped 0.8% at 90.33 pence.

The Brexit headlines overshadowed President Donald Trump’s threat to veto the U.S. stimulus bill. Trump said the long-awaited stimulus package should be amended to increase the amount in the stimulus checks — potentially disrupting the bill.

Elsewhere, the Australian dollar gained 0.7% against the dollar to US$0.7575, boosted in part by signs that a small COVID-19 outbreak in Sydney would be contained. The New Zealand dollar also rose 0.7% to US$0.7091.

Sterling gains, dollar on back foot amid hopes for Brexit deal

Sterling extended gains on Thursday amid expectations a long-elusive Brexit deal was imminent, raising hopes the UK can avoid a turbulent economic rupture on New Year’s Day.

The dollar was on the back foot in holiday-thinned trading as hopes for an agreement that would protect some $1 trillion in annual cross-channel trade from tariffs and quotas sapped demand for the safest assets.

The British pound strengthened 0.2% to $1.3525 early in the Asian day after surging 0.9% in the previous session to snap a three-day losing streak.

The dollar index was at 90.255 following Wednesday’s 0.3% slide. The euro strengthened 0.1% to $1.22025, adding to a 0.2% gain overnight.

The riskier Aussie dollar traded at 75.802 U.S. cents following the previous session’s 0.8% jump.

While there has been no official confirmation from either side that the months of negotiations had reached a conclusion, a senior British government source said Prime Minister Boris Johnson was poised to do a trade deal with the EU, after media reports said the agreement had already been done.

A source at the EU’s executive Commission said talks were still under way, and another British government source was also cautious, saying negotiations were ongoing.

“This time it really does appear that a deal will be struck just in time for Christmas,” Westpac macro strategist Tim Riddell wrote in a client note dated Dec. 24.

“If a deal does transpire on 24th December, GBP is likely to make further gains” toward $1.40, “but potential for a more substantial move towards 1.4500 now seems unlikely given how positions exhaustion is so prevalent.”

The Brexit headlines overshadowed U.S. President Donald Trump’s demand for changes to a coronavirus aid bill, effectively threatening a government shutdown next week.

The dollar index has lost more than 6% this year as investors bet the U.S. Federal Reserve will keep its monetary policy ultra-accommodative and fiscal stimulus will speed an economic recovery in 2021. Expectations for further declines by the dollar are helping buoy stock markets and emerging-market currencies.

“The fact that equity indices traded mostly in the green this morning reflects a consensus expectation that Trump will sign the budget into law – though he could wait until the eleventh hour,” Jane Foley, senior FX strategist at Rabobank in London, wrote Wednesday in a research note.

“If this doesn’t happen the USD could benefit from safe haven buying,” but longer term the U.S. currency will weaken to $1.23 per euro over the course of next year, she said.

Dollar climbs as coronavirus variant negates stimulus optimism

The dollar rose on Tuesday in thin trading, as concerns about a coronavirus variant raging in Britain that has caused lockdowns and travel restrictions have dampened optimism about a U.S. stimulus bill that Congress passed overnight.

Risk appetite took a hit, as U.S. stocks fell except for the Nasdaq, and U.S. Treasuries rallied.

Currencies tied to higher risk appetite such as the Australian and New Zealand dollars were also weaker against the greenback.

“Momentum, market positioning, and the skew in the options market all warn of the risk of an upside correction in the dollar, even if the precise timing is difficult to predict,” said Marc Chandler, chief market strategist, at Bannockburn Global Forex in New York.

“At the same time, the pandemic in Europe, lockdowns, and a seemingly less aggressive approach to the vaccines, including orders suggested a bleak Q1 in 2021,” he added.

Tuesday’s data was weaker than expected, with U.S. existing home sales falling more than expected in November and the consumer confidence index lower than forecast. The weak U.S reports reinforced the dollar’s rally.

Meanwhile, an $892 billion COVID-19 aid package passed by Congress is awaiting President Donald Trump’s approval to become law. Some analysts though said the relief package has already been priced in the market and therefore the impact has been muted.

Investors overall remained concerned about the new coronavirus variant even as medical experts sought to ease concerns about it.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said on Tuesday the coronavirus variant had not yet been detected in the United States, while Health Secretary Alex Azar told Fox News the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, which received U.S. emergency use authorizations this month, should be effective at preventing illness from the variant of the virus.

In afternoon trading, the dollar index rose 0.6% to 90.675, as the euro fell 0.7% to $1.2156 .

The dollar rose 0.4% versus the yen to 103.70 yen.

The market has been positioned for a weaker dollar. It is pricing in a pandemic recovery that lifts commodity prices and benefits exporters and their currencies at the expense of the dollar.

“I still think the dollar is going to remain under significant pressure for the first half of the year. We have U.S. equities that are overvalued and overpriced,” said Ronald Simpson, managing director, global currency analysis at Action Economics in Florida.

“Once COVID calms down there will be more opportunity in emerging markets,” he added.

Sterling also slid against the dollar, down 0.9% at $1.3350. The pound slipped versus the euro as well, down 0.1% at 91.03 pence per euro.

There is a post-Brexit trade deal on the table between Britain and the European Union, and while both sides want to wrap up negotiations before Christmas Eve, the talks remain strained, the Sun newspaper reported on Tuesday, citing a senior British source.

The Australian dollar fell 0.8% to US$0.7525. The New Zealand dollar lost 0.7% to US$0.7044.

Investors take some money off table after week of dollar selling

The dollar took a breather on Friday after enduring a week-long beating that has pushed it below major support levels as its slide sucked in more short sellers keen to make an easy buck.

Traders in Asia skimmed some profits from the big moves, which had even sent the greenback to a nine-month low against the safe-haven yen while the Japanese currency was falling against the likes of the rallying euro, Aussie and kiwi.

The dollar was 0.3% stronger at 103.39 yen on Friday and rose by about the same margin against the Australian and New Zealand dollars. It gained about 0.2% against the euro.

Still, it is down 0.6% against the yen for the week and had fallen below September’s low of 103.18 yen on Thursday. It is also set for a seventh consecutive weekly drop against the Antipodeans and a 1.1% drop against the euro.

Sterling is on course for a 2.4% weekly gain on the dollar, its best weekly rise in six months, fueled by hopes of a Brexit trade deal breakthrough before the end of the year.

“The bigger picture here is that the market is getting hopeful for some resolution of Brexit and (U.S.) fiscal stimulus talks,” said Bank of Singapore currency analyst Moh Siong Sim.

Even soft U.S. economic data, rather than driving a safety bid for dollars, is increasing investors’ expectations for a government spending package, Sim said, which would lift consumption and risk appetite and weigh on the greenback.

Against a basket of currencies the dollar rose 0.15% to 89.986 – barely above the 2-1/2-year low of 89.723 it made on Thursday. The dollar index is down 1% for the week so far and has fallen 12.6% from a three-year peak in March.

Bitcoin was steady in Asia but has rocketed almost 20% this week to record levels above $23,000 as flows have poured in from mainstream investors who are beginning to view it as an inflation-protected wealth store.

Deal talk

Heading into the weekend traders are keenly focused on the progress of U.S. fiscal stimulus talks and Brexit trade negotiations to set the tone for the last weeks of the year.

A new potential roadblock to a $900 billion U.S. relief bill emerged in the Congress on Thursday as some Senate Republicans insisted on ensuring that expiring Federal Reserve lending programs cannot be revived.

Britain and the European Union also struck a downbeat tone about the likelihood of an agreement on Thursday, but traders are choosing to stick with bets on resolution in both cases.

“For now the narrative of global growth, and broadening of the recovery, favors risk-sensitive currencies like the Aussie and the kiwi,” said Rodrigo Catril, National Australia Bank’s senior currency strategist in Sydney.

“More of the same is to be expected in 2021.”

Elsewhere on Friday the Bank of Japan extended its aid scheme for corporate lending and kept other policy settings steady, as expected. It also pledged to begin an examination on more effective ways to achieve its 2% inflation target.

The Norwegian crown handed back some of yesterday’s sharp gains which followed hints at rate hikes by the central bank and the South Korean won was also weighed by a new wave of coronavirus cases which is straining hospitals.

The dollar was last up half a percent on the won and had punched through its 20-day moving average to hit 1,099 won.

The Thai baht rose to a seven-year high on hopes for inflows after Thailand eased travel restrictions on Thursday and as investors bet a warning from Washington may temper central bank efforts to restrain the baht’s recent rise.

A German sentiment survey and U.S. consumer sentiment data are also due later on Friday.

Dollar drops as progress on U.S. stimulus, Brexit deals dent safety bid

The dollar set fresh 2-1/2-year lows against major rivals on Thursday as progress toward agreeing a U.S. stimulus package and a Brexit deal boosted risk appetite at the expense of the safest assets.

Congressional negotiators were “closing in on” a $900 billion Covid-19 aid bill, lawmakers and aides said on Wednesday, with the tone the most positive it’s been in months.

Across the Atlantic, the European Union’s chief executive said a deal with the UK was nearer, although success wasn’t guaranteed.

“As the world gets more optimistic about the outlook for growth in 2021, the dollar has softened,” said Michael McCarthy, chief strategist at broker CMC Markets in Sydney.

“Further weakening of the dollar is on the cards.”

The dollar index sank as low as 89.995 in Asia, breaking below 90 for the first time since April 2018.

The euro traded at $1.2280 in Asia, after earlier reaching $1.22350, also the strongest since April 2018.

The pound bought $1.3536 having risen to $1.3553 the previous session for the first time since May 2018.

The Federal Reserve on Wednesday vowed to keep funneling cash into financial markets until the U.S. economic recovery is secure, a promise of long-term help that fell short of some investors’ hopes of an immediate move to shore up a recent pandemic-related slide.

The dollar index jerked higher after the Fed’s announcement, but the respite was short-lived.

“The U.S.′ long-term yield is too low to finance its current account deficit,” said Minori Uchida, chief currency strategist at MUFG Bank in Tokyo.

“As long as U.S. long-term yields stay at very low levels, the dollar will be weaker,” with scope to fall by as much as 10% against rivals like the euro, yen and Chinese yuan, he said.

The greenback was little changed at 103.475 yen, also a safe haven currency, but Uchida said it could break 100 by March.

The onshore yuan traded at 6.5366 per dollar, while its offshore counterpart changed hands at 6.5089, near the 6.4975 level it reached earlier this month for the first time since June 2018.

Meanwhile, the Swiss franc was little changed after touching a six-year high of 0.8826 per dollar on Wednesday, when the U.S. Treasury labeled Switzerland a currency manipulator.

The Treasury said that through June 2020 both Switzerland and Vietnam had intervened in currency markets to prevent effective balance of payments adjustments.

The Australian dollar touched 75.940 U.S. cents, the highest since June 2018. Its New Zealand peer reached 71.41 U.S. cents, a level unseen since April 2018.

Bitcoin traded as high as $22,181 after smashing through the $20,000 barrier for the first time overnight.

“Bitcoin is still on its latest tear,” Ray Attrill, head of foreign exchange strategy at National Australia Bank in Sydney, wrote in a client note.

“I still don’t want one for Christmas.”

Dollar heavy amid stimulus progress, pound buoyed by Brexit deal hopes

The dollar traded near 2 1/2-year lows against major peers on Tuesday as demand for the safest assets flagged amid progress toward agreeing U.S. fiscal stimulus and optimism for a Brexit deal.

The greenback was near its weakest since mid-2018 against the euro and UK pound with U.S. lawmakers scurrying to ready $1.4 trillion in spending.

A $908 billion bipartisan Covid-19 relief plan will be split into two packages, a person briefed on the matter said, raising hopes that at least a large part of the plan that already has bipartisan support will be approved.

“The big picture is that 2021 looks increasingly promising for global growth, and while the U.S. will certainly be a part of that, the global reflation trade is going to support the risk-sensitive currencies like the Australian dollar,” said Westpac currency analyst Sean Callow.

“The dollar is likely to be in the group of laggards, along with the likes of the yen.”

Across the Atlantic, European Union Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said that sealing a trade pact with Britain was still possible, sowing hope that a deal can be reached with just days to avert a turbulent exit for the UK from the trade bloc at the end of the month.

The British pound rose 0.1% against the dollar to $1.3332, after jumping 0.8% on Monday. It reached a 2 1/2-year high of $1.3540 earlier this month.

The greenback slipped 0.1% to $1.2150 per euro, trading near a 2 1/2-year low of $1.2177 touched again on Monday.

Covid-19 vaccine roll-outs in the United States and Britain also buoyed risk sentiment, but optimism was tempered by spikes in infection and death rates. London will go into a tighter lockdown amid the discovery of a new variant of the virus.

The dollar index was little changed at 90.705 after Monday sinking as low as 90.419, a level unseen since April 2018.

The currency added 0.1% to 104.125 yen, another traditional safe-haven asset.

“With the roll-out of vaccines starting in the U.S. and the UK, we expect shutdowns to reduce in frequency and intensity, allowing the USD to resume its downtrend,” Commonwealth Bank of Australia currency analyst Joe Capurso wrote in a client note.

An agreement on fiscal stimulus would also “undermine” the U.S. dollar, he wrote.

The offshore Chinese yuan weakened 0.2% to 6.5444 per dollar. It reached 6.4975 earlier this month for the first time since June 2018.

The onshore yuan traded at 6.5549.

A Chinese official said Tuesday that the country could make targeted policy adjustments as the economy improves.

The Aussie slipped 0.2% to 75.130 U.S. cents after touching the highest since June 2018 at 75.780 on Monday.

The New Zealand dollar lost 0.1% to 70.72 U.S. cents after reaching 71.20 the previous session for the first time since April 2018.

Sterling gains on Brexit deal optimism; dollar dithers before Fed

The British pound rose against the dollar and euro on hopes that Britain and the European Union will secure a free trade agreement after their decision to extend negotiations beyond the Sunday deadline.

The dollar traded near a 2 1/2-year low against major peers ahead of a U.S. Federal Reserve meeting ending Wednesday where policymakers are expected to increase purchases of longer-dated Treasuries to contain a rise in yields.

The rally in sterling may not last, some analysts warn, because Britain and the EU have repeatedly struggled to narrow their differences and there is still a risk that trade and business will be thrown into chaos without an agreement.

“This is a temporary move higher in the pound, but it is still not clear that a no-deal scenario can be avoided,” said Junichi Ishikawa, senior foreign exchange strategist at IG Securities in Tokyo.

“A partial deal with an agreement to negotiate further next year might save the pound, but anything less would lead to renewed selling. I would not buy sterling from here.”

The British pound jumped by 0.7% to $1.3317, its biggest one-day gain since Dec. 1.

Against the euro, sterling rose by 0.5% to 91.07 pence, the largest daily gain since Dec. 9.

The euro edged up 0.2% to $1.2129.

The dollar was little changed at 103.995 yen.

London and Brussels agreed on Sunday to “go the extra mile” in coming days to try to reach an elusive trade agreement despite missing their latest deadline to avert a turbulent exit for Britain from the European Union at the end of the month.

Britain formally left the EU in January, but has since been in a transition period during which it remains in the EU single market and customs union, meaning that rules on trade, travel and business have stayed the same.

That all ends on Dec. 31, and if by then there is no agreement to protect around $1 trillion in annual trade from tariffs and quotas, businesses on both sides would be hit hard, but the British pound is more vulnerable to selling than the euro, analysts warn.

The dollar, which has also been under selling pressure recently, faces a big week because of the Fed’s policy meeting.

U.S. dollar net short positioning in the latest week climbed to its highest since late September, according to calculations by Reuters and Commodity Futures Trading Commission data released on Friday.

The dollar index against a basket of six major currencies stood at 90.793, close to a 2 1/2-year low.

Investors have sold the dollar on expectations of a global recovery, buoyed by positive coronavirus vaccine news and hopes for further U.S. stimulus that should lift the market’s risk appetite.

The dollar is also under pressure due to expectations that U.S. interest rates will remain low for an extended period.

“The secular trend remains overwhelmingly of U.S. dollar weakness,” Tapas Strickland, a director of economics at National Australia Bank in Sydney, wrote in a research note.

Elsewhere, the Chinese yuan traded at 6.5370 in the onshore market, little changed on the day. In the offshore market, the dollar slipped 0.2% to 6.5237 yuan.

The Aussie dollar was little changed at 75.342 U.S. cents. Australian central bank minutes on Tuesday could prompt investors to scale back bets for additional monetary easing.

Across the Tasman Sea, the New Zealand dollar edged higher ahead of data later in the week forecast to show a sharp rebound in the country’s gross domestic product.