Dollar ticks higher in thin trading on cautious economic optimism

The dollar ticked up against a basket of rival currencies in holiday-thinned trading on Thursday as a dip in weekly jobless claims data helped ease fears that a surge of COVID-19 infections would curb the economic recovery.

New claims for U.S. unemployment benefits fell in the week leading up to Christmas and benefits rolls slid to their lowest level of the pandemic era the previous week, data showed, signaling no impact on employment from the rapidly spreading Omicron variant.

The better-than-expected report initially helped lift the S&P 500 and Dow Jones Industrial Average indexes to all-time highs on Thursday, extending their record-setting runs before they receded in late trading.


The dip in jobless claims came even as COVID-19 infections in the United States hit a record high for the second day running, Reuters data showed.

“The market is blasé about many of the risks emanating from Omicron right now in terms of growth and the supply chain,” said Adam Button, chief currency analyst at ForexLive.

Low holiday trading volume also meant that moves in the market were likely exaggerated, he added. “By and large, the end of the year is dominated by flows, not fundamentals,” he said.

At 3:15 Eastern time, the dollar index , which measures the greenback against six major peers, was up 0.158% at 95.976, after having been negative in the overnight session.

“There’s definitely cautious optimism around, though the dollar is mostly just recovering the ground it lost yesterday afternoon,” said Kit Juckes, head of FX strategy at Societe Generale in London.

That optimism could be seen in the dollar pulling away from the safe-haven Japanese yen, he said.

The yen touched 115.205 per dollar, its weakest in a month and not far off its November trough of 115.51.

The euro was down 0.19% at $1.1325 after touching a one-month high on Wednesday.

Sterling rose 0.13% to $1.3506.

The Turkish lira continued to slide and was down 4.68% at about 13.1 per dollar, after having fallen 6.9% on Wednesday.

Bitcoin steadied after two days of losses. The world’s largest cryptocurrency was last up 0.72% at $47,568, well off its all-time high of around $69,000 in November.

Dollar, yen soft in thin trading after U.S. equities hit record highs

The dollar and yen were at the low end of their recent ranges in thin holiday trading on Thursday, having fallen overnight as investors favored riskier currencies along with equities.

The moves seemed to be linked to recent improved sentiment as many governments resist imposing new, widespread lockdowns, even as the omicron variant of the coronavirus surges.

Reuters data shows global Covid-19 infections hit a record high over the past seven-days.

“The U.S. dollar resumed its retreat overnight as markets continue to price in finishing Omicron fears thanks to low hospitalisations,” said Jeffrey Halley, a senior market analyst for Asia Pacific at Oanda.

“That has encouraged investors out of defensive positioning and back into the global recovery trade.”

The euro was at $1.1352 in early Asian trading, after gaining 0.35% and touching a one-month high the day before.

The sterling was at 1.3500, its highest since Nov. 19 after a 0.44% overnight gain.

This left the dollar index, which measures the greenback against major peers, at 95.862, languishing near its lowest in a month.

But with many traders away ahead of the year-end, analysts cautioned against reading too much into the moves.

“In times like these we trade very technically as short-term jobbers try to eek out some final year-end gains,” Brad Bechtel, global head of FX at Jefferies, said in a note to clients.

FX flows have been on the “lighter side of usual for a month end,” Bechtel added.

However, rising U.S. yields put a floor under the dollar.

Benchmark 10-year yields reached 1.56% on Wednesday, the highest since Nov. 29, in U.S. trading after the Treasury sold $56 billion in seven-year notes to weak demand.

They last yielded 1.5496%.

The moves in currencies were in keeping with the broader market. In keeping with the risk-on mood, the S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at all-time highs on Wednesday, the latter rising for a sixth session.

The safe haven yen was at 114.95 per dollar after touching a one-month low of 115.03 on Wednesday. Its November trough of 115.51 was its lowest since early 2017.

The Australian dollar was at $0.7254, having held onto its recent gains.

The Turkish lira was at 12.6 per dollar having fallen 6.9% on Wednesday in another volatile day.

Despite surging more than 50% last week following state-backed market interventions, it has lost 40% of its value this year. However, Turkey’s Finance Minister Nureddin Nebati said on Wednesday that the current swings in the lira were not worrying and that it would return to normal levels.

Bitcoin fell for a third session in a row. It was last around $46,200, having been trending lower since hitting an all-time high of $69,000 in November.

Safe-haven yen sinks to one-month low as Omicron worries ebb

The yen traded near a one-month low to the dollar on Tuesday as safe-havens fell out of favor following Wall Street’s rally to a record high overnight, with Omicron uncertainty consigned to the background.

The Japanese currency weakened as far as 114.935 yen per dollar for the first time since Nov. 26, approaching the year-to-date low of 115.525 reached Nov. 24.

The S&P 500 ended at a record high on Monday after strong U.S. retail sales data eased worries from the highly infectious Omicron coronavirus variant, which has forced thousands of flight cancellations and delays over the holidays and stranded cruise ships.

The U.S. dollar, also viewed as a safe-haven, continued to languish toward the bottom end of its recent trading range versus a basket of peers, even after a hawkish tilt at the Federal Reserve that had policy makers signaling three quarter-point interest rate increases next year.

The dollar index, which measures the currency against six major rivals, was little changed from the previous session at 96.076.

“Markets globally are optimistic” that Omicron won’t derail an economic recovery, denting demand for haven currencies, predominantly the yen, said Osamu Takashima, head of G10 FX strategy at Citigroup Global Markets Japan.

The U.S. equities rally “implies that currently investor risk appetite must be very, very strong” despite expectations for faster Fed tightening, he said.

The yen is likely to test its 2021 low in the near term, he predicted.

Sterling, which often rises when risk sentiment improves, held close to the one-month high of $1.3445 reached overnight.

The Australian dollar, often considered a liquid proxy of risk appetite, inched up back toward a three-week high at $0.6850, reached Friday.

The euro consolidated near the top of its range against the dollar this month, little changed from Monday at $1.13255.

Dollar droops as optimism on economic outlook saps demand for haven assets

The safe-haven dollar languished near an almost one-week low against its major peers on Thursday as investors adopted a more optimistic stance about the global economic outlook, despite the rapid spread of the omicron coronavirus variant.

The dollar index, which measures the currency against six rivals, stood at 96.111, not far from the overnight low of 96.020, touched for the first time since Dec. 17.

The risk-sensitive Australian dollar was steady at $0.72125 following Wednesday’s 0.86% surge.

Sterling was little changed at $1.33515 after a 0.63% rally.

Risk appetite has improved since Monday, when markets were rattled by government restrictions relating to the spread of omicron.

However, data on Wednesday showed U.S. consumer confidence improving more than expected in December, suggesting the economy would continue to expand in 2022 despite a resurgence in Covid-19 infections and reduced stimulus spending.

There was also encouraging news from a South African study, which suggested reduced risks of hospitalization and severe disease in people infected with omicron compared with the delta strain.

The euro was about flat at $1.13325 after a 0.33% overnight advance.

The dollar was little changed at 114.16 yen — another safe-haven currency — holding close to an almost one-month high from Wednesday at 114.37.

Many analysts expect the dollar to strengthen in coming months after a hawkish tilt this month at the Federal Reserve put an interest-rate increase in March on the table, setting the U.S. central bank apart from more dovish peers in Europe, Japan, Australia and elsewhere.

Money markets currently price better than 50-50 odds for a hike by the March policy meeting.

“Ongoing data strength should help bolster Fed pricing, particularly amid reports that Omicron appears to be leading to fewer hospitalisations,” TD Securities strategists wrote in a report.

Dollar regains ground as volatility starts to fade

The Aussie and Kiwi dollars on Wednesday, gave up some of their gains from the day before, as a rally in riskier asset classes began to lose steam, though moves were muted as traders started to head out for the holidays.

The Australian dollar lost 0.3% to $0.7130 and the New Zealand dollar lost 0.3% to $0.6747, having both advanced sharply the day before alongside oil and global shares.

With small declines in the pound — also a beneficiary of Tuesday’s rally — and the euro, the dollar index snapped two days of losses and edged a little higher on the day to 96.538, though it was still well within its recent ranges.

The weeks on either side of Christmas are typically low in volatility for currencies and other asset classes, analysts at ING said, though “this year some seasonal tendencies will be mixed with the Omicron variant threatening to force new restrictions and markets still processing a week full of key central bank decisions.”

Last week Britain became the first G7 economy to raise interest rates since the onset of the pandemic, with the U.S. Federal Reserve also signaling plans to tighten in 2022 and the European Central Bank only slightly reining in stimulus.

Investors’ expectations that the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates more aggressively in 2022 than most other major central banks mean the dollar index is looking at close out 2021 not too far from its 16-month high of 96.938 last month.

The index is up 7.3% this year, which would be its best year since 2015.

Omicron continues to keep traders on edge and infections are multiplying across Europe, the United States and Asia, causing countries across the globe to consider new curbs on movement and reimpose quarantine periods for incoming visitors.

But a Bloomberg report that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is set to authorise COVID-19 treatment pills from both Pfizer Inc and Merck as early as Wednesday may have helped the mood.

In emerging market currencies, traders were bracing for another day of volatility for Turkey’s lira, which closed up 6% on Tuesday, having been down as much as 8.6% and up as much as 18.5%.

Bitcoin rose to $49,600 its highest in over a week. Ether, the world’s second-largest cryptocurrency, has also been gaining this week and was last just above $4,000.

Dollar on back foot as Treasury yields soften, omicron keeps markets on edge

The dollar hovered below recent highs on Tuesday having lost ground overnight after a blow to Democratic spending plans in Washington, but worries about the omicron coronavirus variant kept risk currencies in check.

The dollar index, which measures the currency against six major peers, was last at 96.513, having lost ground on both the euro and the yen.

The greenback briefly approached 16-month highs at 96.914 last week, after the U.S. Federal Reserve opened the door to as many as three interest rate increases in 2022, and then found support as worries about the omicron strain caused investors to seek safety.

However, it pulled back on Monday, finishing the session down 0.12% after U.S. Senator Joe Manchin, a moderate Democrat who is key to President Joe Biden’s hopes of passing a $1.75 trillion domestic investment bill — known as Build Back Better — said on Sunday he would not support the package.

“The dollar pulled back on the breakdown of Build Back Better. Less stimulus, weaker growth, and rates dropping at the short-end was enough to push the dollar slightly lower,” said Kyle Rodda, an analyst at IG markets.

Two-year U.S. Treasury yields on Monday touched 0.5870%, their lowest since Dec. 3, also causing the yield curve to steepen.

The pound was on the back foot at $1.3204 after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Monday he would tighten coronavirus curbs to slow the spread of the omicron variant if needed.

Omicron infections, which are multiplying rapidly across Europe and the United States, and doubling every two or three days in London and elsewhere, caused a sharp sell-off in share markets on Monday as well as oil.

In a sign of the uncertainty, however, Nasdaq and S&P 500 futures both climbed on Tuesday in early Asia.

The Aussie dollar was weak at $0.71055, while the New Zealand dollar was testing 13 month lows at $0.6709.

Turkey’s lira had volatile day on Monday, even by its usual standards, first falling as much as 10% before ending the session up over 20% after President Tayyip Erdogan introduced a series of steps that he said would ease the burden of the weakened currency on Turks.

He also vowed to press on with a low-rates policy that led to the lira’s slide in the first place.

Bitcoin was comparatively quiet, just below $47,000 after trending lower for the past few weeks.

U.S. dollar holds tight as investors look beyond Fed to next big central bank meetings

The dollar paused for breath on Thursday, having given up a brief rally made after the U.S Federal Reserve said it would end pandemic-era bond purchases in March, as investors awaited imminent decisions from other major central banks.

Investors are now sitting tight ahead of meetings from the European Central Bank, the Bank of England, and others before firming up their positions at the end of a busy week for central banks.

The dollar index, which measures the currency against six peers, was last at 96.391, having tested last month’s 16-month high of 96.938 after the Fed’s announcement before retreating to as low as 96.296.

On the other side of the dollar sell-off, the euro advanced 0.25% on Wednesday, the pound gained 0.27% and the risk-friendly Australian dollar jumped 1%.

“It suggests to me that markets were positioned for the Fed being more hawkish than survey expectations would have you believe,” said Ray Atrill head of FX strategy at NAB. “Also that risk assets took the latest pivot so well reinforces the fact that the U.S. dollar and risk sentiment seem to be negatively correlated.”

All three main U.S. stock indexes reversed earlier losses and climbed into positive territory after the meeting, extending gains as Fed Chair Jerome Powell struck an upbeat tone in a news conference and expressed willingness to raise interest rates as necessary to control inflation.

“The economy no longer needs increasing amounts of policy support,” said Powell, contrasting the near-depression conditions at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020 with today’s rising prices and wages and rapid improvement in the job market.

But the Fed was not the only game in town. The ECB, BOE, as well as the Swiss National Bank and Norges Bank will hold policy meetings later Thursday.

“To some extent the reaction to the Fed might have to wait for what the ECB does, because we’re expecting the contrast between the ECB’s disposition and the Fed’s will be laid bare later tonight and that could probably be a catalyst for the U.S. dollar to push through the highs overnight,” Atrill added.

ECB officials are set to call time on the central bank’s Pandemic Emergency Purchase Program but investors will look to see how the six-year old Asset Purchase Program may pick up the slack, though rate rises are a way away.

The euro was last at $1.1282.

The Aussie dollar edged higher to $0.7177 after jobs data came in well above expectations, seemingly more significant for markets than Australia’s top central banker saying he thought it unlikely interest rates will need to rise in 2022.

The pound rested at $1.1326 ahead of a meeting in which the BOE is trying to both hose down inflation and address concerns about an economy already worried about the looming fast-spreading omicron variant of Covid-19.

Data on Wednesday showed UK inflation surged to 5.1% in November, its highest in more than 10 years, the same day the country recorded its highest daily coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic.

Bitcoin also rallied on Wednesday to $49,000.

Aussie buoyant, dollar listless as omicron optimism lifts risk assets

The Australian dollar hit its strongest level in a week on Wednesday amid a pick-up in risk appetite on signs omicron may be less severe than other Covid-19 variants, but still vulnerable to existing vaccines.

The Aussie rose to $0.7124 for the first time since Dec. 1, and traded at 80.80 yen, not far from Tuesday’s one-week top at 80.93.

British drugmaker GSK said on Tuesday its antibody-based Covid-19 therapy with U.S. partner Vir Biotechnology is effective against all mutations of the new omicron coronavirus variant.

Meanwhile, the Reserve Bank of Australia said omicron was not expected to derail the country’s economic recovery.

Investors had already cheered comments from the weekend that cases in South Africa — where the omicron strain was first identified — showed milder symptoms, with the top U.S. infectious disease official, Anthony Fauci, adding “it does not look like there’s a great degree of severity” so far.

For the week, Australia’s currency is up 1.71% against the greenback, setting up its best performance in three months. It has rallied 2.28% versus the yen, on track for its best week since mid-October.

“Markets continue to travel with a good deal of optimism that Omicron will not have the severity of prior variants in terms of health outcomes, even if it is more transmissible,” Ray Attrill, head of FX strategy at National Australia Bank, wrote in a client note.

That’s put risk asset markets in “ebullient mood,” lifting stocks, commodities, as well as riskier commodity-linked currencies including the Australian and Canadian dollars, he said.

The Canadian dollar traded at C$1.2645 per greenback, near the two-week high at C$1.2635 set overnight.

The Bank of Canada decides policy later on Wednesday, and while economists expect no change at that meeting, they forecast rate hikes as early as the middle of next year in a recent Reuters poll.

The British pound recovered a bit of composure, consolidating around the middle of this week’s trading range this week at $1.32415.

The euro edged 0.05% higher to $1.12735, after touching its lowest since Nov. 26 at $1.1228 in the previous session.

The dollar index, which measures the greenback against six major peers, was little changed at 96.269, treading water in the middle of its range over the past 2-1/2 weeks.

The JOLTS report on U.S. job openings due later Wednesday should provide further evidence of a tightening labour market, potentially adding fodder for bets on earlier Fed tightening, which could boost the dollar.

Money markets are currently fully priced for a quarter point rate increase by June.

Dollar ticks up as Treasury yields partly claw back fall

The dollar ticked higher on Monday as Treasury yields rose off last week’s 2-1/2-month lows following news that initial observations suggested those suffering from the Omicron COVID-19 strain only had mild symptoms.

The Omicron news from South Africa helped reverse some of the moves from Friday, when Wall Street had sold off heavily.

That selloff had taken 10-year Treasury yields below 1.4% for the first time since late-September and boosted the safe-haven yen and Swiss franc. The dollar had tumbled as much as 0.4% lower against the Japanese currency. .

Friday’s greenback losses also followed a below-forecast jobs report, though the data did little to shake market expectations the Federal Reserve will accelerate the pace of unwinding stimulus and raise interest rates starting next year.

The dollar index inched 0.10% higher at 96.29, within range of November’s 16-month peak of 96.938. It was also 0.2% higher against the yen at 113.05 yen and rebounded 0.4% to the franc.

“The dollar is capitalising on the narrative of the Fed sticking to its plans for quicker tapering, which is what we had last week from (Fed Chair Jerome) Powell,” said ING Bank FX strategist Francesco Pesole.

Dollar long positions climbed for a second straight week to the highest since June 2019, according to data from the U.S. CFTC, while bearish euro positions rose to stand at the highest since March 2020.

The euro slipped a quarter percent to the dollar.

Pesole said a further dollar long build-up was likely, given diverging policy expectations, especially against the euro.

Meanwhile, the Australian dollar was up 0.5% to $0.7035, scraping itself off a 13-month low. The kiwi rose 0.1% to $0.6750.

Riskier currencies were also supported by a slight re-steepening of the Treasury yield curve, where the gap between two and 10-year yields widened slightly after touching the narrowest in a year on Friday.

Analysts reckon the curve will flatten further, however, especially if inflation data due later in the week reinforces policy tightening expectations from the Fed.

“If you look at the shape of the yield curve, the flattening of the 2-10 segment normally brings some underperformance in commodity currencies,” Pesole said.

Elsewhere, cryptocurrencies nursed big losses from a wild weekend that at one stage crushed bitcoin more than 20%. Bitcoin found support around $49,000 on Monday.

Dollar steadies, risk currencies recover from omicron-driven drop

The dollar steadied on Wednesday and risk appetite recovered somewhat, but euro-dollar volatility remained elevated as investors weighed up hawkish comments from the Federal Reserve and risks relating to the Omicron variant.

The dollar rose on Tuesday after U.S. Fed Chair Jerome Powell said that the risk of inflation had increased and signaled the central bank may accelerate its bond-buying taper at its meeting later this month.

At 1147 GMT, the dollar index was little changed overall on the day at 95.940. In November, it had its strongest month since June.

Global stock markets and riskier currencies recovered some of the previous session’s losses as investors bet that the Omicron variant – which has prompted countries to impose new travel restrictions – would not derail the economic recovery.

But in currency markets, volatility remained elevated. One-month euro-dollar volatility gauges hit their highest so far this year on Monday.

ING strategists wrote in a client note that euro-dollar volatility has jumped as the Omicron variant is seen as positive for the euro (because it could slow the Fed’s tightening), while Powell’s remarks (suggesting inflation is the Fed’s primary concern) are seen as negative for the euro.

“Both themes will be fed many fresh inputs over the next four weeks and thinning liquidity conditions point to bumpy conditions in FX markets,” ING said.

The euro was down 0.1% on the day at $1.1322 at 1201 GMT .

On Tuesday, a warning from drugmaker Moderna that existing vaccines are unlikely to be as effective against the Omicron variant as they are against other strains, led to a surge of interest in safer assets.

Later, BioNTech’s chief executive struck a cautiously positive note, saying the vaccine it makes in a partnership with Pfizer would likely offer strong protection against severe disease from Omicron.

Sterling, considered a risk currency, was up 0.2% at $1.33175, after fears about whether the vaccine will work against the Omicron variant saw it fall to its lowest level since December in the previous day.

The Australian and New Zealand dollars also made gains, carrying them up from one-year lows, after losses last week and on Tuesday. The Aussie was up 0.3% at $0.7149 and the kiwi was up 0.3% at $0.6842.

The Chinese yuan, a beacon of resilience in a turbulent few days, touched a six-month high of 6.3596 per dollar after better-than-expected manufacturing data from November.

In cryptocurrencies, bitcoin was up around 0.5% at $57,266.93.