U.S. Markets

Dollar rises to two-week high on positive U.S. data

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The dollar climbed to a two-week peak against a basket of currencies on Friday, as stronger-than-expected U.S. economic data appeared to boost expectations the Federal Reserve may raise interest rates more than once this year.

Light is cast on a U.S. one-hundred dollar bill next to a Japanese 10,000 yen note in Tokyo, in this February 28, 2013 picture illustration. REUTERS/Shohei Miyano/File Photo

The move was the best two-week gain for the dollar since late February. The greenback also rose to a two week-high against the euro and Swiss franc.

Data on Friday showed U.S. retail sales gained 1.3 percent in April, the largest rise in more than a year, suggesting the economy was regaining momentum after growth almost stalled in the first quarter.

Excluding automobiles, gasoline, building materials and food services, retail sales shot up 0.9 percent last month after an upwardly revised 0.2 percent gain in March.

The retail sales report “is likely to rekindle arguments from the hawkish camp in the ongoing debate among policy makers about why the Federal Reserve should consider maintaining its rate normalization efforts,” said Samarjit Shankar, head of iFlow and quant strategies at BNY Mellon in Boston.

The dollar, he added, is likely to continue garnering support from the market’s interest rate expectations.

The U.S. currency remained net bought over the past week, although on a more modest basis, according to BNY Mellon data.

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The greenback suffered a sharp sell-off in the first four months of 2016, hitting a 16-month low, as market expectations of at least two Fed rate hikes this year faded amid fears about a global economic slowdown and financial market turbulence.

With those concerns having subsided somewhat, some analysts say there are signs the tide could be turning for the dollar and that investors, who now see about a 60 percent chance of a Fed hike this year, may have pushed back their expectations too far.

In late trading, the dollar index rose 0.5 percent to 94.609, its largest one-day gain in more than a week. The index also got a boost after the University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment index rose to 95.8 this month, the highest level since June 2015, from April’s reading of 89.

The euro meanwhile fell to $1.1304, down 0.6 percent EUR=. The euro shrugged off data showing euro zone GDP grew by 0.5 percent in the first quarter, in a downward revision of an earlier estimate.

Against the yen, the dollar fell 0.4 percent to 108.60 yen JPY=, well clear of an 18-month low of 105.55 hit last week after the Bank of Japan kept monetary policy unchanged.

Additional reporting by Jemima Kelly in London; Editing by Paul Simao