Dollar firm as caution on economic re-start returns

The dollar found support on Monday and a rally in riskier currencies lost steam, as investors braced for more dire news on the fallout from the coronavirus and governments across the globe moved only cautiously toward an economic re-start.

Major currencies were mostly rangebound, though the risk-sensitive Australian and New Zealand dollars and the oil-sensitive Canadian dollar led losses with falls of around 0.3%.

Oil, U.S. stock futures and Asian equities were also softer as caution took hold after two weeks of looking on the bright side.

“Hurdles facing optimists are very substantial,” said Sean Callow, Westpac FX analyst in Sydney.

“We’re three weeks into a quarter that globally looks as though it’s going to be the worst in many decade. For us, while the momentum may be with risk appetite for a little bit longer, we think its very fragile and has to pull back very soon.”

The Australian dollar sat a cent lower than a one-month high hit last week at $0.6344. The New Zealand dollar was also on the back foot, but held at $0.6013 after stronger-than-expected first-quarter inflation.

Investors’ preference for the dollar as a safe harbor also pushed euro, pound and yen a little lower. The euro was about 0.2% softer at $1.0858 and the pound retreated to $1.2477. The dollar rose 0.2% to 107.77 Japanese yen.

The week ahead brings U.S. monthly employment figures, eurozone survey indicators and quarterly growth in world-trade bellwether South Korea. None are likely to be easy reading.

The week is also crucial to the COVID-19 recovery as governments around the world make tentative steps toward easing lockdowns.

In the United States, where the death toll rose to more than 40,000 on Sunday, state governors have sparred with President Donald Trump over virus testing capacity and how quickly their economies can re-open.

Investors are also closely watching an announcement due in New Zealand at 0400 GMT as to whether its tough but curve-squashing restrictions are to be loosened or extended.

Britain is not considering lifting its lockdown, a senior minister said on Sunday, while leaders in Ireland and Canada have flagged long-lasting social distancing rules.

“We are coming into the eye of the storm,” said Chris Weston, head of research at brokerage Pepperstone in Melbourne.

“And as the market starts to focus less on virus headlines, or at least will be less sensitive to better news, we will focus more on the lasting effects on the economy and solvency.”

China, which has suffered its first quarterly growth contraction since quarterly records began, is expected to cut its benchmark lending rate later on Monday.

The yuan was steady at 7.0711 per dollar in offshore trade.