The U.S. dollar extended gains against Japan’s yen on Tuesday, hitting new five-year highs as investors bet that the fast-spreading Omicron coronavirus variant would have limited economic impact and that the Federal Reserve would hike rates.
In the second trading day of 2022, global markets extended the upbeat moves seen on Monday.
The dollar’s gains were helped by a rise in U.S. treasury yields, with the U.S. 10-year yield hitting a six-week high.
At 1158 GMT, the dollar index was up 0.2% at 96.398, its highest in 13 days .
Versus the yen, the dollar was up 0.7% at 116.125, extending its overnight gains to reach its highest since January 2017. But it was only the biggest daily gain for the dollar versus the yen since November 2021.
The euro was down 0.2% versus the dollar, at $1.1276 .
Investors see Omicron as potentially less disruptive to the global economy than previous variants, following studies suggesting that the risk of hospitalization is lower.
Money markets have fully priced in a first U.S. rate increase by May, and two more by the end of 2022.
“As long as inflation keeps going up there is scope for the dollar to remain firm,” said Colin Asher, senior economist at Mizuho.
Asher said it could be hard for the dollar to build much further on current strength given so much policy tightening is already priced in “but given the short term momentum, in Q1 we are likely to see the dollar remain pretty firm, especially as we are seeing a very rapid change in asset purchases.
“U.S. inflation may peak in January but the market will take a bit of time to acknowledge that.”
Asia’s factory activity grew in December as companies withstood rising global cases of the Omicron variant, though persistent supply constraints and rising input costs clouded the outlook for some economies.
“As Omicron is not translating to severe infection and death, the initial risk-off shock has been completely erased and markets are focused on the supply chain impact and inflationary narrative,” Elsa Lignos, global head of FX strategy at RBC Capital Markets, said in a note to clients.
Risk-sensitive currencies were generally up on the day. The Australian dollar, which is seen as a liquid proxy for risk appetite, was up 0.1% at $0.71975, even as hospitalization in the state of New South Wales surpassed the record levels seen during the Delta variant outbreak.
The New Zealand dollar was down 0.2%.
Britain’s pound was up 0.1% at $1.349, while euro-sterling edged down to its lowest since February 2020, 83.57 pence per euro, shortly before midday .
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Monday that the country would “continue with the path that we are on” in terms of measures to limit the COVID-19 spread.
Bitcoin was up 0.5% on the day at $46,651.17, still significantly below its latest all-time high of $69,000 reached in November.
China has released pilot versions of its digital yuan wallet application, the “e-CNY (Pilot Version)” app, as the country’s central bank steps up its push to develop its own digital currency.