Dollar shaky as investors balance hope against virus fears

The dollar slipped on Monday in a choppy session as investors tried to navigate their way through an unsettling rise in coronavirus infections and weigh whether it would delay an economic recovery.

The Australian dollar led modest gains in Asia as the head of the country’s central bank said the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic would not be as bad as first feared.

But a record spike in new global cases has capped moves, while moves by Beijing and parts of Australia to re-introduce some restrictions added to the cautious mood.

The risk-sensitive Aussie reversed early losses and was last up 0.3% at $0.6854, the New Zealand dollar rose 0.3% to $0.6422.

Against a basket of currencies, the dollar gave back a bit of last week’s gains and fell 0.2% to 97.501.

“We’ve tried both sides of the story in Asia and as the day’s worn on the bulls have got the upper hand,” said Westpac analyst Sean Callow. “That’s helped the Aussie to avoid breaking any key levels. But it has not been a conclusive day.”

The safe-haven yen hardly moved and was last at 106.87 per U.S. dollar, not far from a one-month high of 106.58 hit earlier this month – underlining the elevated caution.

“We expect the FX markets to remain caught between recovering economic indicators and concerns about a second-wave of COVID-19 infections in the week ahead,” analysts at Barclays said in a note.

Barclays said gains in the euro are possible if Purchasing Managers Indexed due on Tuesday beat expectations and recommended buying euro, with a $1.14 target.

The single currency last traded 0.2% firmer at $1.1200 after dipping to a three-week low of $1.1168 in early trade as divisions among European Union leaders over how to structure a planned COVID-19 recovery fund kept investors wary.

The pound held just above a three-week low at $1.2393, weighed down by prospects of a no-deal Brexit, as little progress has been made in trade discussions between Britain and the European Union.