Dollar pauses ahead of Fed rate decision
SINGAPORE – The dollar was broadly flat against major currencies on Wednesday after easing in the previous session following U.S. data that showed moderating wage pressure, with investors keenly awaiting the conclusion of a Federal Reserve policy meeting.
The U.S. central bank is expected to raise interest rates by 25 basis points later on Wednesday, but Fed Chair Jerome Powell’s press conference is likely to take the spotlight as traders attempt to gauge how long the Fed is likely to stay hawkish.
The dollar index, which measures the U.S. currency against six major peers, fell 0.029 percent to 102.060. It slipped 0.16 percent in the previous session, in part because of a report showing U.S. labor costs had increased in the fourth quarter at their slowest pace in a year.
The index has fallen for four straight months. As investors price in the Fed reaching the end of its rate-hike cycle, the index is far from the 20-year high of 114.78 it touched on Sept. 28.
Investor attention this week will also be on the monetary path taken by European Central Bank and Bank of England, each of which is expected to raise interest rates by 50 basis points on Thursday.
The euro was down 0.03 percent to $1.0859, while sterling was last trading at $1.231, down 0.08 percent on the day.
The Japanese yen strengthened 0.10 percent versus the greenback at 129.98 per dollar.
Prices of Fed funds futures imply the Fed’s benchmark rate will peak at 4.91% in June, up from 4.33 percent, then fall to 4.48 percent by December.
“Recent progress on inflation has encouraged market participants to expect the Fed to quickly pivot from interest rate hikes to interest rate cuts,” said Carol Kong, currency strategist at Commonwealth Bank of Australia.
Since signs of labour market loosening were limited, the Fed would likely pair a smaller rate hike this week with hawkish communication, she said. “The U.S. dollar can in turn enjoy a brief rally if markets reassess their expectations for a quick FOMC pivot.”
The Fed increased interest rates by 50 basis points in December after four successive 75 bps rate hikes. It said then that interest rates might need to be higher for longer to tame inflation.
“The expectations of a soft landing have picked up since the start of the year, relative to the rising recession bets seen in second half of last year,” Saxo Markets strategists said.
“There is some reason to believe that Powell and team may be aiming to lengthen the hiking cycle in order to buy more time to assess both the incoming data and the impact of their previous aggressive rate hikes.”
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