May 7, 2018 / 1:29 AM / 15 days ago

Dollar hits strongest level of 2018 as euro falls

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The dollar hit a 2018 peak against a basket of currencies on Monday as investors increased bets that rising interest rates and inflation in the United States would boost the greenback, while traders unwound their bearish positions on the currency.

U.S. dollar banknote is seen in this picture illustration taken May 3, 2018. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

The index that tracks the dollar against a basket of currencies climbed to 92.974, its highest since December. It was last up 0.2 percent at 92.792.

Speculators trimmed their bets on a falling dollar to the lowest in seven weeks last week, based on Commodity Futures Trading Commission data released on Friday.

Some analysts cautioned the dollar’s two-week long bounce in may be overdone.

“At this juncture, much of the market expectations for rising inflation and interest rates may already have been priced into the dollar, and upside momentum may have been overextended,” said James Chen, head of research at Gain Capital in Bedminster, New Jersey.

Friday’s somewhat disappointing U.S. payrolls report, which showed hiring and wage growth fell short of expectations, did not alter traders’ outlook for further rate increases from the Federal Reserve.

“Nevertheless, the data was still expansionary, showing tepid but positive growth,” Boris Schlossberg, managing director of FX strategy at BK Asset Management in New York, said of the April jobs data.

“In contrast, today news from the eurozone only added to the sense of dread in the region as consumer spending slowed materially,” he added.

Traders have scaled back expectations on the timing of when the European Central Bank may raise interest rates following a spate of disappointing regional economic readings.

The euro broke below $1.19 for the first time this year in the aftermath of weaker-than-expected data on German industrial orders and euro zone investor sentiment.

The euro shed 0.3 percent at $1.1924 after touching $1.1896, the lowest in more than four months.

The British pound traded up 0.27 percent at $1.3562, bouncing off a four-month low of $1.3487 set last week. Sterling has slumped in the past fortnight as investors reversed expectations of a rate hike at the Bank of England’s upcoming meeting on Thursday amid soft domestic data.

UK financial markets were closed for a bank holiday.

The Reserve Bank of New Zealand will also meet on Thursday and is expected to hold its key interest rate at a record low of 1.75 percent.

The Kiwi NZD=D4 was down marginally at $0.7020, holding above its year-to-date low of $0.6985 set last week, Reuters data showed.

Additional reporting by Tommy Wilkes in London and Hideyuki Sano in TOKYO; Editing by Hugh Lawson, Dan Grebler and Richard Chang

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