NEW YORK The dollar rose against the euro on Monday after European Central Bank President Mario Draghi signaled the bank could ease monetary policy further, while strong U.S. retail sales data also boosted the dollar against the yen.
Draghi said in Washington on Saturday that "a further strengthening of the exchange rate would require further stimulus". Bank of France chief Christian Noyer hammered home the message saying: "The stronger the euro is, the more accommodative policy is needed."
"A number of ECB officials are talking in more detail about unorthodox policies," said Alan Ruskin, global head of G10 currency strategy at Deutsche Bank in New York. "All of that is raising expectations that we're not that far from action."
The statements marked the ECB's strongest signal yet that it would act to head off further gains in the euro. Traders have watched closely for signs of additional stimulus measures from the ECB to prevent deflation.
ECB policymakers ramped up talk of more monetary easing on March 25, but comments from the central bank's policymakers last Monday curbed some expectations by suggesting more stimulus was not imminent.
The euro retreated around half a percent from close to 2014 highs against the dollar, but was still up from its low for the year of $1.3476, which it touched on February 3. Ruskin of Deutsche Bank said the ECB would need to act for the euro to fall further, and that current account surpluses in the euro zone have supported the currency.
Capital rolling into Germany, the Netherlands and other stronger economies in the euro zone have supported the euro, which in turn has hurt countries such as Greece, Spain and Portugal.
The dollar hit session highs against the euro, Japanese yen, and Swiss franc after the Commerce Department said retail sales increased 1.1 percent in March, marking the biggest gain in 1-1/2 years as receipts rose in nearly all categories.
The euro was last down 0.48 percent against the dollar at $1.3817. The strong data detracted from the yen's safe-haven appeal as well, with the dollar last up 0.16 percent against the yen at 101.77. The dollar was up 0.4 percent against the Swiss franc to trade at 0.8796 francs.
The U.S. dollar index .DXY, which measures the dollar against six major currencies, was last up 0.36 percent.
The retail sales data boosted the dollar, but the currency largely benefited from the euro's weakness, said Nick Bennenbroek, head of currency strategy at Wells Fargo Securities in New York.
The dollar also advanced nearly 1 percent against the Russian ruble on escalating geopolitical tensions surrounding Russia and Ukraine. Pro-Russian separatists on Monday ignored an ultimatum to leave occupied government buildings in eastern Ukraine while another group of rebels attacked a police headquarters.
The dollar was last up 0.88 percent against the ruble to trade at 35.94 rubles. Bennenbroek of Wells Fargo said the potential of the United States and European Union to impose further sanctions against Russia has weighed on the ruble.
France's foreign minister said Monday that the EU could hold an emergency summit next week to impose further sanctions against Russia if there is no breakthrough at talks with Ukraine scheduled for Thursday in Geneva.
"The longer the situation remains unsettled, the greater the chance that there could be some further sanctions that could impact the economy," Bennenbroek said.
(Additional reporting by Patrick Graham in London; Editing by Tom Brown and Chizu Nomiyama)