Dollar slips on rate view, sterling firms before Brexit vote

The dollar weakened on Tuesday on heightened expectations the Federal Reserve will hold off on raising rates this year due to a slowdown in global growth, while sterling edged up ahead of Britain’s parliamentary vote on its Brexit plan.

Worries over the U.S. economy losing steam as well as a shock contraction in Chinese trade have fanned worries about a sharp global slowdown, which will likely keep the Fed from tightening monetary policy further this year.

The dollar index weakened by 0.12 percent to 95.48.

“There is a strong dislike for the dollar given Fed expectations, but at the same time there is not a compelling replacement,” said Sim Moh Siong, currency strategist at Bank of Singapore. “Over the next 6-12 months, the dollar should trend lower.”

Interest rate futures markets are pricing in no further U.S. rate hikes in 2019.

Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said last week the U.S. central bank has the ability to be patient on monetary policy given that inflation remains stable.

The euro gained 0.1 percent on the greenback to $1.1485, while the Canadian dollar strengthened by 0.15 percent to C$1.3270.

Sterling will be in focus as British Prime Minister Theresa May must win a vote in parliament later on Tuesday to get her Brexit deal approved or risk a chaotic exit for Britain from the European Union. The numbers are not in May’s favour and her chances of winning the vote look extremely slim. May needs to secure 318 votes to win.

Sterling gained 0.3 percent to $1.2901 ahead of the vote.

“Interestingly, speculators have been betting that this outcome could lead to a possible delay to Brexit from 29 March to July (after the EU Parliament elections in May) to allow for fresh elections or a second referendum,” Philip Wee, currency strategist at DBS, said in a note.

But other analysts expect the pound will take a major beating if May loses the vote by a wide margin.

“Losing by 100 or more votes is a major defeat but there’s some talk that she could lose by 200 votes. A major loss will lead to a knee jerk decline in GBP that could take GBP/USD below 1.25 and EUR/GBP above 91 cents,” said Kathy Lien, managing director of currency strategy at BK Asset Management in a note.

Elsewhere, the Australian dollar and kiwi dollar, both considered proxies for global risk appetite, were up 0.2 percent each, having recovered from Monday’s lows.

Sentiment was aided by a fresh round of commitments from Chinese policymakers to stimulate their economy though fiscal and monetary steps.

The Aussie was at $0.7213, while the kiwi dollar fetched $0.6833.

The Aussie dollar has stabilized above the $0.72 level and most analysts think it points to Chinese growth likely bottoming out in the next few quarters.

Given the sharp slowdown in economic activity and the negative impact of the U.S.-Sino trade dispute on the Chinese economy, analysts are hopeful that leaders of the two countries will reach a comprehensive trade deal in the coming weeks.

Trade tensions between the world’s two largest economies had rattled financial markets for most of last year.