THE US dollar edged higher on Monday (Feb 12) as a holiday in most major Asian markets subdued the start of what could turn into a busy week, with all eyes on US inflation data for clues on when the Federal Reserve may start to cut rates.
The euro was down 0.14 per cent at US$1.0769, edging off a 10-day high touched in early trading after the past week saw a small bounce back following steady declines in 2024. A reading of the eurozone’s economic growth in the fourth quarter on Wednesday could offer fresh direction.
The pound dropped 0.1 per cent to US$1.2632, though the Japanese yen strengthened a touch to 149.01 per US dollar as the approaching release of US consumer price index (CPI) data for January on Tuesday capped moves.
Changing expectations of when and how quickly central banks will cut interest rates as inflation falls are a significant driver of currency markets at present.
Strong jobs data this month has largely taken a March Fed rate cut off the table, with markets currently seeing a move in May as more likely than not.
The US data also caused market pricing for the first European Central Bank rate cuts to be pushed back, even though European economic data has been much less strong.
That lack of divergence between both the Fed and the ECB and the Fed and other central banks has prevented the US dollar from moving significantly higher, said Simon Harvey, head of FX analysis for Monex Europe, and left the currency largely range-bound, until the situation changes.
“In the interim we keep floating around, and US CPI will determine how the US dollar trades within those ranges,” he said.
Analysts expect US core CPI to come in at 0.3 per cent month on month in January, but a still-elevated 3.8 per cent year on year.
Bank of Italy governor Fabio Panetta said on Sunday the moment is “fast approaching” for the ECB to cut rates, but the market reaction was limited in both currencies and government bonds.
ING analysts said that Panetta is “the most dovish voice in the (ECB’s rate-setting) Governing Council”, and that his remarks differed not only from the hawks warning against cutting too early but also from other doves.
Elsewhere, there is plenty of data due this week in Britain including inflation and gross domestic product numbers, with the former, on Wednesday, similarly likely to influence opinion on when the Bank of England will start to cut interest rates – it is currently seen lagging the Fed and European Central Bank.
“Net, we think the data will be negative for sterling, a lot of the headlines will be around recession, and the uptick in inflation pressures,” said Harvey.
Markets are also keeping an eye on the highly rate-sensitive Japanese yen, which strengthened sharply late last year as markets priced in early US rate cuts but has since weakened as that timing got pushed back.
Japanese Finance Minister Shunichi Suzuki said on Friday that authorities were closely watching FX moves.
“US dollar/yen is likely to be driven mainly by US developments in the near future, but intervention warnings are likely to increase in frequency around the 150 level,” said Barclays analysts.
Japanese authorities intervened in late 2022 to prop up the yen, which weakened to as much as 151.94 per US dollar. REUTERS