U.S. Markets

Dollar rises as Fed cuts rates, but easing outlook uncertain

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The dollar hit a seven-week high against the yen and a three-month peak versus the Swiss franc on Wednesday after the Federal Reserve cut interest rates by a quarter of a percentage point, as expected, but gave an uncertain outlook on future easing and sounded less bleak about the U.S. economy.

Slideshow ( 3 images )

The dollar rose in seven of the last eight sessions against the yen, while touching the day’s peaks versus the euro.

In cutting interest rates by 25 basis points for the second time this year, the Fed gave a nod to ongoing global risks and “weakened” business investment and exports.

But new projections showed policymakers at the median expected rates to stay within the new range through 2020. However, in a sign of ongoing divisions within the Fed, seven of 17 policymakers projected one more quarter-point rate cut in 2019.

“It is perhaps a little more hawkish than what the market was hoping for. I think it’s an acknowledgement that there is a range of opinion within the policymaking apparatus here,” said Tim Horan, chief investment officer, at Chilton Trust in New York.

“If you look at our own U.S. numbers, what stands out is that inflation has been moving up and that’s slightly at odds with the stronger dollar that we’ve had.”

In response to the Fed’s action, President Donald Trump blasted the Fed, saying the U.S. central bank and its Chair, Jerome Powell, had “No ‘guts,’ no sense, no vision!”

In late afternoon trading, the dollar rose 0.3% to 108.42 yen JPY=, hitting a seven-week high of 108.43. The dollar index, tracking the unit against a basket of other currencies .DXY, was up 0.3% at 98.56, advancing against the Swiss franc to 0.9981 franc CHF=.

The euro fell 0.3% against the dollar to $1.1031 EUR=.

“The tone of the Fed’s new forecasts remained largely sanguine despite the global risks,” said Joe Manimbo, senior market analyst at Western Union Business Solutions in Washington. “Consequently, the dollar isn’t likely to stray far from recent highs.”

Aside from cutting interest rates, the Fed changed two key rates used to manage its main policy lever. It lowered the interest it pays on excess bank reserves (IOER) by 30 basis points, to 1.80%. The rate now sits 20 basis points below the top of the target range, compared to 15 basis points previously.

The Fed also set its offering rate for any necessary operations in the $2.2 trillion repurchase agreement, or repo, market, at 1.70%, five basis points below the bottom of the new target range for the policy rate.

The changes came after turmoil this week in funding markets briefly pushed the overnight bank-to-bank lending rates above the U.S. central bank’s target range.

Reporting by Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss; Additional reporting by Richard Leong and Kate Duguid; Editing by David Gregorio and Nick Zieminski