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Forex: Dollar Gains as Traders Trim Rate Hopes Before Powell Speech

ForexAug 23, 2019 05:38AM ET
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Investing.com -- The dollar was broadly higher in early trading in Europe Friday in generally quiet trading ahead of a keenly-awaited speech by Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell at 10 AM ET (1400 GMT).

At 3:30 AM, the dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of currencies, was up some 0.2% from late Thursday’s levels at 98.222, with its biggest gains coming against the lower-yielding yen and Swiss franc.

Elsewhere, the Chinese yuan slid to a new 11-year low for the second day in a row, while sterling defended the gains it made in a short squeeze on Thursday on the positive spin coming out of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s meetings with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron.

Powell is under intense political pressure from the White House to cut interest rates aggressively – President Donald Trump has called for a cut of a full percentage point – to pre-empt a slowdown that has resulted largely from Washington’s own trade policy and the fading effects of its tax cuts.

The slowdown, visible for months in China, Japan and Europe, is reaching U.S. manufacturing too, with the IHS Markit purchasing managers index of activity dropping below 50 for the first time in nearly 10 years in August.

However, the ongoing strength of U.S. domestic demand - evident in a string of strong reports from U.S. retailers in recent weeks - has so far stopped Fed officials from easing monetary policy aggressively. Kansas City Fed President Esther George, one of two dissenters from last month’s decision to cut the Fed funds rate by 25 basis points last month, repeated her opposition to any more easing on Thursday, as did Philadelphia Fed President Patrick Harker, who doesn’t have a vote on Fed decisions this year.

“Relative to market pricing, we think that Powell is likely to under-deliver,” said Bank of New York strategist John Velis in a note to clients. “Look for continued USD strength, and likely some weakness in the high-beta section of the currency market.”

However, Velis said he believed that the market, which is expecting more aggressive action, “is closer to the mark than the hawks on the (Federal Open Market Committee) have been expressing, and - in the absence of a resolution of political risk and uncertainty - the case for more dovish policy in Q4 and into 2020 will emerge fairly soon.

That bleak longer-term outlook, characterized by negative interest rates in Europe and Japan already, is shared by an increasing number of economists.

“Black hole monetary economics - interest rates stuck at zero with no real prospect of escape - is now the confident market expectation in Europe and Japan, with essentially zero or negative yields over a generation,” former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers said via Twitter on Thursday. “The United States is only one recession away from joining them.”

Forex: Dollar Gains as Traders Trim Rate Hopes Before Powell Speech
 

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