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Dollar drifts lower as Fed speakers soothe inflation fears

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Economy7 minutes ago (May 25, 2021 02:01AM ET)

Dollar drifts lower as Fed speakers soothe inflation fears
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A packet of former U.S. President Abraham Lincoln five-dollar bill currency is inspected at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing in Washington March 26, 2015. REUTERS/Gary Cameron/File Photo

By Tom Westbrook

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – The dollar floated at the bottom of its recent range on Tuesday, as softer-than-expected U.S. data and fresh insistence from Federal Reserve officials that policy would stay on hold allayed investor fears about inflation forcing interest rates higher.

The British pound rose, inching back toward the three-month high reached at the end of last week. The Turkish lira edged slightly lower, largely unfazed by the removal of one of the central bank’s four deputy governors.

Investors are heavily short dollars in the belief that low U.S. rates will drive cash abroad as the world recovers from the pandemic. They have become leery of adding to positions after an April leap in inflation cast doubt on the policy outlook, but seemed to find reassurance in data and Fed remarks overnight.

The softened 0.1% to 89.747 in Asia, adding to its 0.2% overnight loss to take it just above a four-month low. The euro held a 0.3% overnight gain and, at $1.2228, is close to testing last week’s four-month top at $1.2245.

“Markets appear to be coming around to the Fed narrative that a burst in inflation is only likely to be temporary,” said Rodrigo Catril, a senior FX strategist at National Australia Bank (OTC:) in Sydney. “A temporary spike in prices should not instigate a removal of stimulatory policies from central banks.”

The U.S. national activity index reading of 0.24 against expectations above 1, as well as dovish comments from Fed speakers, provided some backing for the view that any policy tightening is not happening any time soon.

“I think there will come a time when we can talk more about changing the parameters of monetary policy, I don’t think we should do it when we’re still in the pandemic,” Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis President James Bullard said overnight.

The yield on benchmark 10-year Treasuries hovered at 1.6063%, just above a two-week low, and the dollar also eased on the Australian and New Zealand dollars and the yen.

The yen was last at 108.735 per dollar while the and drifted round the middle of ranges that have held them since April. The Aussie bought $0.7750 and the kiwi $0.7211. [AUD/]

Sterling, which has run up about 1.2% over the past three weeks while other majors have steadied or even slipped, was 0.2% higher at $1.41797. [GBP/]

The lira eased 0.1% to 8.3805 per dollar. Turkey removed Oguzhan Ozbas from his post as central bank deputy governor, replacing him with Semih Tumen, an adviser to President Tayyip Erdogan. In March, Erdogan sacked central bank chief Naci Agbal, two days after a sharp interest rate hike, and also dismissed another deputy governor later the same month.

COMES A TIME

Traders have a laser-focus on inflation, the policy response to it and any data or remark that could shed light on either since huge bets on stocks, bonds and currencies are all predicated on the assumption that low rates are here to stay for a while.

“The whole world is in a wait-and-see mode,” said Stuart Oakley, head of cash currency trading at Nomura in London, who has trimmed his own trading in the face of the uncertainty.

“The next few months are going to be so pivotal for FX, purely based on when the Fed starts talking about tapering, and that is 100% down to how the data’s going to pan out this month and next month,” he said. “The minute we get so much as a suggestion that some of that stimulus (has) moved, then everything’s going to change drastically.”

Ahead on Tuesday is a German business survey, a series of U.S. housing updates and a handful of policymaker speeches in Europe, Britain and the United States, which will all be parsed for a reading on inflation.

On Thursday, crucial U.S. core consumer price data is due, while in the Antipodes the focus will also be on the Reserve Bank of New Zealand’s Wednesday policy statement, with a risk that it may begin to project rate rises.

Cryptocurrencies drifted lower in Asia after making their best attempt at a bounce yet on Monday from last week’s lows. fell 0.2% to $38,050.97, paring the previous day’s 12% gain. Ether slid 3% to 2,571.73, following a 26% rebound on Monday.

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