U.S. dollar, yen rise after soft China data, amid Afghan unrest

The dollar rose on Monday against commodity currencies such as the Australian, New Zealand and Canadian dollars, while the safe-haven yen gained as disappointing economic data from China, political tension in Afghanistan, and the spreading Delta variant of the coronavirus weighed on risk appetite.

The dollar’s gains came after a slump in consumer sentiment on Friday weakened the U.S. unit.

Against a basket of six major currencies, the dollar was up 0.1% at 92.620, after falling to a one-week low of 92.468 on Friday. Its gains were most pronounced against commodity currencies.

The Aussie dollar was down 0.6% against the U.S. dollar at US$0.7335, while the New Zealand dollar fell 0.4% to US$0.7016 ahead of a Reserve Bank of New Zealand policy meeting on Wednesday, at which economists widely expect the first hike in the benchmark interest rate since 2014.

The greenback, meanwhile, rose 0.4% against the Canadian dollar to C$1.2572, amid Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s early election call for Sept. 20, betting that high vaccination rates against the coronavirus and a post-pandemic economic rebound will help him prolong and strengthen his grip on power.

“The jump in the U.S. dollar comes from a combination of uncertainty over Delta, as China shut down a major port over safety, and the new geopolitical reality facing Afghanistan,” said Juan Perez, FX strategist and trader at Tempus Inc in Washington.

“Overall, the buck is indeed playing what could be a short-lived role as a safe haven because nothing is very clear other than the end of a very long-armed conflict others saw ending differently,” he added.

Thousands of civilians desperate to flee Afghanistan thronged Kabul airport on Monday after the Taliban seized the capital over the weekend, prompting the United States to suspend evacuations as it came under mounting criticism at home over its pullout.

Currencies overall stuck to broad trading ranges as investors were wary of taking large bets at the start of a busy week for central banks.

China’s July retail sales, industrial production and fixed asset investment were all weaker than expected as the latest COVID-19 outbreak weighed on the world’s second-biggest economy.

Long positions on the greenback swelled to their biggest levels since March 2020, suggesting the dollar’s recent move lower was more a temporary setback than the beginning of a structural downtrend.

The release of the Fed minutes this week will be key to the short-term outlook for the greenback, especially if it confirms more policymakers are leaning toward tapering its bond purchase plan by the end of the year.

Currency market volatility, even by its already low levels, is nearing 2021 lows thanks to the summer lull.

Elsewhere, minutes from the Reserve Bank of Australia’s latest meeting are due on Tuesday.

In cryptocurrencies, bitcoin fell 1.2% to $46,479 after hitting a three-month high of $48,190 over the weekend

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