March 12, 2020 / 12:08 AM / 23 days ago

FOREX-Euro holds tight ranges ahead of Trump, ECB virus response

* Euro steady as markets wait for ECB at 1230 GMT

* Commodity currencies slip, yen firm

* Trump to address nation at 0100 GMT

* Graphic: World FX rates in 2020

By Tom Westbrook

SINGAPORE, March 12 (Reuters) - The euro held its nerve on Thursday, as markets wait to see how aggressively the European Central Bank will move to combat the coronavirus’ economic shock, following emergency rate cuts in the U.S. and Britain.

Investors expect the ECB will cut its main deposit rate by 10 basis points. But it is no certainty since rates are already at a record-low -0.5% and further cuts could hurt bank margins and so squeeze lending.

Markets also await 0100 GMT remarks from U.S. President Donald Trump, who has downplayed the risks from coronavirus, but said he would address economics and healthcare in his comments.

The euro was flat in Asian trade at $1.1260, its softest so far in a week where it has soared on expectations of further rate cuts in the United States.

Futures markets have priced the lower band of the U.S. Federal Reserve’s funds rate hitting zero by May.

Sterling meanwhile nursed modest losses after the Bank of England made a surprise half-a-percentage-point rate cut in tandem with a $39 billion government stimulus package.

It last sat at $1.2815.

“There’s a sense to which currency markets are going to reward the currencies of countries that are seen to be using whatever space they’ve got for easier fiscal and monetary policy,” said Ray Attrill, head of FX strategy at NAB.

“(But) even if the ECB wheel out a cocktail of lower rates, stepped up QE, more long-term ... in itself, that’s not going to inspire a huge amount of confidence that the eurozone economy is going to escape recession. The hope would be that we’ll have something more tangible on the fiscal side sooner rather than later.”

A press conference is due at 1230 GMT in Frankfurt, following the monetary policy meeting.

Elsewhere, the dollar advanced against commodity currencies and nursed losses on the safe-haven yen amid a slew of dire headlines on the coronavirus outlook.

The World Health Organization (WHO) overnight described the outbreak as a pandemic. Italy, where deaths rose by nearly a third overnight, has shuttered all shops except supermarkets, food stores and pharmacies.

Australia announced it would pump A$11 billion ($7 billion) in fiscal stimulus into its economy by June.

On Wall Street, the longest-ever bull market for U.S. stocks ended overnight with the Dow Jones index sliding into bear market territory.

The yen was a touch firmer at 104.47 per dollar. The Australian and New Zealand dollars each fell about 0.2%. The Aussie last bought $0.6471 and the kiwi $0.6257. ($1 = 1.5454 Australian dollars) (Reporting by Tom Westbrook; Editing by Sam Holmes)

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