Tech wobble buoys dollar, Brexit fears hammer pound

The dollar was poised for its first back-to-back weekly gains since May on Friday as jitters in equity markets had investors sticking to safer assets, while sterling tracked toward its worst week since March on fears of a messy hard Brexit.

After a volatile New York session, the greenback was broadly steady in Asia. Marginal moves higher in the Aussie, kiwi and euro were all too small to dent a bounce in the dollar that came with Thursday’s Wall Street selloff.

“It’s exhaustion today,” said National Australia Bank senior currency strategist Rodrigo Catril in Sydney, as traders frazzled by a bumpy week look ahead at risks ranging from next week’s Federal Reserve meeting to U.S. politics and Brexit.

“We think that in this sort of environment of uncertainty its difficult to see the equity market continue to perform. A period of turbulence seems more likely, and in that scenario the dollar tends to find support, or at least struggles to weaken.”

Markets are also looking to U.S. consumer price data due at 1230 GMT for an insight into the recovery and to the challenge facing the Federal Reserve as it looks to lift inflation.

Against a basket of currencies, the dollar was a touch lower midway through Asian trade, but ahead by about half a percent for the week. It has now recouped about 1.7% from a 28-month hit low early in September.

The yen was broadly steady for the week at 106.14 per dollar. Goldman Sachs analysts said pension fund flows out of Japan had offset a safety bid as U.S. stocks fell.

The Australian dollar rose 0.3% to head toward a flat finish for the week at $0.7275, while the New Zealand dollar edged 0.1% higher to $0.6660. Bond inflows have not been enough to prevent a nearly 1% dip in the kiwi this week.

“The dollar looks delicately poised having bounced from recent lows,” ANZ analysts said in a note.

“The Fed still has a mountain to climb if it wants to drive inflation higher, and the September meeting may provide some insight on how exactly it plans to do that.”
Wild ride

Asia’s steady session followed wild trade in the wake of Thursday’s European Central Bank meeting and a falling out between Britain and Europe over Brexit that hammered the pound.

The euro whipsawed, first zooming 1% higher to $1.1917 after European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde insisted the bank does not target the exchange rate, before falling back to around $1.1830 as a U.S. equities slump lifted the dollar.

The Nasdaq dropped 2% overnight and has fallen 9.6% from a record high made on September 2.

Sterling, meanwhile, just fell.

The European Union told Britain on Thursday it should urgently scrap a plan to break their divorce treaty.

But Britain has refused to budge and pressed ahead with a draft law that could sink four years of Brexit talks by fiddling with agreed-upon arrangements for Northern Ireland.

The outcry from Europe sent the pound to a six-week low of $1.2773 and it mostly stayed there on Friday, last trading at $1.2812. It has lost 3.5% on the dollar this week and about as much against the euro to sit at 92.32 pence.

“The selling was relentless,” said Chris Weston, head of research at brokerage Pepperstone in Melbourne.

“Clearly the pound is wearing a greater political premium,” he said, adding that near-term volatility gauges had spiked dramatically.

In emerging markets, the Indonesian rupiah dropped nearly 0.7% to a four-month low of 14,920 per dollar as a planned return to coronavirus social restrictions in Jakarta unnerves investors.