Dollar advances as traders consider higher-for-longer rates view
SINGAPORE – The dollar was on the front foot on Monday, hovering near a seven-week peak after a slew of strong U.S. economic data reinforced the view that the Federal Reserve will have to raise interest rates further and for longer.
The dollar index, which measures the U.S. currency against six major peers, was at 105.17, just below the seven week peak of 105.32 it touched on Friday after hotter-than-expected data. The index is up 3 percent for February and set to snap a four-month losing streak.
The personal consumption expenditures (PCE) price index, the Federal Reserve’s preferred gauge of inflation, shot up 0.6 percent last month after gaining 0.2 percent in December, according to data on Friday.
Consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity, jumped 1.8 percent last month, according to the Commerce Department. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast consumer spending rebounding 1.3 percent.
Rodrigo Catril, senior currency strategist at National Australia Bank, said the data depicted a U.S economy running too hot at the start of the year, increasing the urgency for the Fed to tighten further over coming months.
“The reality is that the U.S economy has started 2023 from a stronger position than many of us had expected.”
The market is now pricing U.S. interest rates to peak at 5.4 percent in July and remain above 5 percent through the end of the year.
Still, Fed policymakers speaking on Friday did not push for a return to last year’s jumbo rate hikes, suggesting that for now central bankers are content to stick to a gradual tightening path despite signs that inflation is not cooling as they had hoped.
The Fed is expected to raise rates by 25 basis points at its March 21-22 meeting, though some analysts see the possibility of a 50 basis points hike if inflation stays high and growth remains strong.
“We now believe it is a much closer call that officials hike by 50 basis points in March than our earlier 25 basis points assumption,” said Kevin Cummins, chief economist at NatWest Markets.
“We put the odds at about 60 percent that the FOMC hikes by 50 bps.”
The data also led to markets nudging up the likely rate tops for the European Central Bank and the Bank of England.
The two-year U.S. Treasury yield, which typically moves in step with interest rate expectations, was up 0.4 basis points at 4.809 percent, just shy of the three-month high of 4.840 percent it touched on Friday.
A closely watched part of the U.S. Treasury yield curve measuring the gap between yields on two- and 10-year Treasury notes, seen as an indicator of economic expectations, was at -87.7 basis points.
The euro was up 0.08 percent to $1.0554, coming off the seven week low it hit on Friday. Sterling was last trading at $1.1959, up 0.13 percent on the day
The Japanese yen strengthened 0.15 percent to 136.26 per dollar, having slipped to more than two month lows of 136.58 earlier in the session.
The Australian dollar rose 0.12 percent to $0.673, while the kiwi advanced 0.13 percent versus the greenback to $0.617.
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