Euro soars after ECB says it could revisit policy message soon

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The euro rallied against the greenback on Thursday after the European Central Bank said it could revisit its communication stance in early 2018, boosting expectations that policymakers are preparing to reduce their vast monetary stimulus program.

FILE PHOTO: Bundles of 50 Euro banknotes move along a conveyer belt at the Money Service Austria company's headquarters in Vienna, Austria, November 16, 2017. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger

With the euro zone seeing its best growth in a decade, the ECB should gradually shift its stance to avoid a more disruptive move later and look at a broader revision of its policy guidance to reduce the focus on bond purchases and raise the emphasis on interest rates, accounts of the ECB’s December meeting showed.

“It’s certainly more of a hawkish tilt in the minutes,” said Karl Schamotta, director of global product and market strategy at Cambridge Global Payments in Toronto.

“This has been long expected but there was more formality in the minutes around how the bank will manage the forward guidance process as they exit unconventional policy,” Schamotta said.

“There was quite a bit of money sitting on the sidelines looking for this hint.”

The euro EUR= was up 0.77 percent to $1.2037, on pace for its biggest single-day percentage gain against the greenback in about two months.

“This ought not to be a big surprise, given the pace of recovery we have seen and time horizon for the QE program, but it has nevertheless given euro bulls a reason to be more confident,” Neil Wilson, analyst at ETX Capital said in a note.

The dollar index .DXY, which measures the greenback against six rival currencies, was down 0.5 percent at 91.869, after falling to a nearly one-week low of 91.787.

The greenback extended losses after data showed U.S. producer prices fell for the first time in nearly 1-1/2 years in December amid declining costs for services.

Weak inflation at the producer level could add to concerns that the factors restraining inflation could become more persistent and result in the Federal Reserve being more cautious about raising interest rates this year.

The U.S. central bank’s preferred inflation measure, the personal consumption expenditures price index excluding food and energy, has undershot its target since May 2012.

The Canadian dollar CAD= recovered ground against the greenback after hitting a nearly two-week low as investors weighed chances of a Bank of Canada interest rate hike next week and worried about the possibility of a U.S. withdrawal from NAFTA.

Bitcoin BTC=BTSP was 11.5 percent lower at $13,185 on the Luxembourg-based Bitstamp exchange after South Korea's government said it plans to ban cryptocurrency trading.

Reporting by Saqib Iqbal Ahmed; editing by Diane Craft