Dollar loses ground, pound gains as traders eye Brexit talks

The dollar lost ground against other major currencies on Monday, while the pound and the euro drew strength from signs that Britain and the European Union could make progress negotiating a post-Brexit trade deal.

Sentiment across markets were mixed, caught between fears of a resurgence of global coronavirus cases and hopes for a working vaccine that could help reignite global growth.

Against a basket of currencies, the dollar softened marginally, fetching 92.565 in Asian trade.

Hopes for Brexit compromise emerged after news Dominic Cummings, the most powerful adviser to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, would leave Downing Street in mid-December.

Meanwhile, Britain’s top Brexit negotiator David Frost said on Sunday that Britain and the EU have made some progress in their post-Brexit trade deal negotiations but might not succeed in getting an agreement.

“This topic remains an uncertain catalyst … The market needs to be cautious that prices could fluctuate nervously on news,” said Sumino Kamei, senior analyst at MUFG Bank.

The British pound edged higher against the dollar, changing hands at 1.3226 per dollar, and against the common currency as well, and last stood at 89.61 pence per euro. The euro last sat 0.16% higher at 1.1854 per dollar.

Global markets surged last week on optimism that a vaccine for Covid-19 would be available soon, with the dollar rising as traders quit their long-yen positions.

“Currency moves which were prompted by vaccine news have taken a pause. With no additional, positive news on the vaccine, U.S. interest rates and stocks went into correction mode at the end of the week, and dollar/yen fell,” Masafumi Yamamoto, chief currency strategist at Mizuho Securities said.

The yen edged higher at 104.49 per dollar, having posted its worst weekly performance since early June last week.

Undermining the greenback more broadly, the total virus cases in the U.S. surpassed 11 million on Sunday as the pace of the pandemic quickened.

While U.S. President Donald Trump still refused to concede defeat in the Nov.3 election, some traders have begun shifting their attention to contenders for President-elect Joe Biden’s cabinet, analysts said.

“Over the weekend, uncertainty around the U.S. presidential election has declined as it became more certain that Joe Biden secured more votes, and it’s easier for traders to take risks on hopes that the next administration would soon take measures against the coronavirus,” Mizuho Securities’ Yamamoto said.

The dollar could strengthen against the yen if U.S. bonds and stocks maintain their upward moment, he added.

Trump on Sunday briefly acknowledged losing the election in a morning Twitter post but then backtracked, saying he concedes “nothing” and vowing to keep up a court fight that election-law experts say is unlikely to succeed.

Meanwhile, Biden focused on tackling the coronavirus pandemic and set meetings with pharmaceutical companies developing vaccines.

Australian dollar traders awaited upcoming events by the Reserve Bank of Australia, with Governor Philip Lowe scheduled to speak later in the day, while the central bank’s November meeting minutes are due on Tuesday.

Analysts also said the China-backed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership deal signed by 15 Asia-Pacific economies on Sunday partly helped risk appetite, as investors hoped the world’s biggest trade pact would boost trades and economic ties.

The Aussie firmed marginally at $0.7287 per dollar in Asian trade, buoyed by stronger equities. The kiwi was up 0.42% to $0.6874, near a 20-month high of $0.6915 marked on Thursday.

Data on Monday showed signs of economic recovery in China and Japan, the world’s second and third largest economies. China’s industrial output rose by a faster-than-expected 6.9% in October, while Japan’s economy grew at its fastest pace on record in the third quarter.

The Chinese yuan firmed following the upbeat economic data, rising to 6.5818 per dollar, hitting its one-week high.