U.S. Markets

Dollar edges higher as investors wait on fiscal stimulus

FILE PHOTO: An employee counts U.S. dollar bills at a money exchange office in central Cairo, Egypt, March 20, 2019. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany/File Photo

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The dollar gained on Monday as investors waited on U.S. fiscal stimulus to blunt the impact of business shutdowns designed to halt the spread of the coronavirus, even after the Federal Reserve took unprecedented measures to support lending.

In a series of actions the Fed agreed to historical measures that would see it for the first time back the purchases of corporate bonds and direct loans to companies, expand its asset holding by as much as needed to stabilise financial markets, and roll out “soon” a program to get credit to small and midsize business.

The dollar dropped sharply when the measures were announced, but gradually climbed back as investors looked to the government to launch stimulus.

“The one thing we really need to see is more fiscal ammunition coming to the fore,” said Mazen Issa, senior currency strategist at TD Securities in New York. “You’ve got to think about those that are asked to be socially distant and stay home from work and not earn a paycheck and they’re taking their time to make them whole. They need to speed it up.”

A far-reaching coronavirus economic stimulus package failed to advance in the U.S. Senate on Monday as Democrats said it contained too little money for hospitals and not enough restrictions on a fund to help big businesses.

The dollar index against a basket of peers =USD fell as low as 101.64 on the announcement of new Fed support, before rising back to trade at 101.53, up 0.03% on the day.

Multiple central bank actions over the past week have so far been unable to stem dollar strength, or offset stock weakness.

The U.S. currency’s gains have also been fueled by a turnaround in dollar positions among hedge funds to a net short from an overall long bet, according to the latest positioning data. That has stirred speculation the dollar’s rally could be partly explained by short-covering by traders.

Graphic: World FX rates in 2019 here

Additional reporting by Saikat Chatterjee in London; Editing by Marguerita Choy and Tom Brown