Dollar gains on virus woes, Aussie hit by rate outlook

U.S. political uncertainty to limit dollar's upside

  
Image used illustrator purpose. A money changer counts U.S. dollar banknotes at a currency exchange office in Diyarbakir, Turkey May 23, 2018.

Image used illustrator purpose. A money changer counts U.S. dollar banknotes at a currency exchange office in Diyarbakir, Turkey May 23, 2018.

REUTERS/Sertac Kayar

TOKYO: The U.S. dollar held onto gains against major currencies on Wednesday, supported by positive U.S. economic data and concerns about a second wave of coronavirus infections in Europe and Britain.

The Australian dollar hit a six-week low on growing expectations the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) may cut interest rates next month. 

The New Zealand dollar edged lower in choppy trade after the country's central bank kept monetary policy unchanged and reaffirmed its commitment to asset purchases. 

The greenback is likely to continue to grind higher in the short term as the coronavirus rattles sentiment in Europe, but uncertainty about this year's U.S. presidential election means the dollar could be prone to more volatile swings.

"Some people are betting for more dollar strength against the euro, which looks overvalued," said Masafumi Yamamoto, chief currency strategist at Mizuho Securities in Tokyo.

"The picture in Europe has completely changed, because the economic recovery is stalling and there is a second wave of the virus, but I'm also worried about U.S. politics."

The dollar edged up to $1.1683 per euro on Wednesday in Asia, close to a two-month low hit in the previous trading session.

The pound bought $1.2720, near the lowest since late July, after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson unveiled on Tuesday new restrictions on business activity to tackle a second wave of the coronavirus.

The dollar rose to 0.9215 Swiss franc, adding to a 0.6% gain from Tuesday.

The U.S. currency rose 0.24% to 105.17 yen.

On Tuesday, the greenback was bolstered by data showing U.S. home sales surged to their highest level in nearly 14 years in August, but comments from a prominent Federal Reserve official sent mixed signals. 

The U.S. economy risks a longer, slower recovery and "recessionary dynamics" if Congress fails to pass an additional fiscal stimulus package, Chicago Federal Reserve President Charles Evans said.

It is possible for the Fed to raise interest rates before inflation starts to average 2%, Evans also said.

The dollar index, which pits the dollar against a basket of six major currencies, rose to 94.197 on Wednesday, the highest in two months.

Sentiment for the euro has slowly weakened as investors grow increasingly worried about surging coronavirus infections in countries like France and Spain, raising the risk of fresh lockdowns. 

Many euro zone countries have reintroduced travel restrictions, forcing airlines to scale back passenger services after a relatively quick run up over the summer.

Traders in the pound and the euro are also worried that Britain and the European Union will fail to agree a free trade deal, which would cause additional economic strain.

The Australian dollar AUD=D3 fell to a six-week low of $0.7128 after economists at Westpac changed their view and said they expect the RBA to lower interest rates to 0.10% from 0.25% at a meeting on Oct. 6. 

The tone for the Aussie was also weak after a senior central banker on Tuesday flagged the prospect of currency market intervention and negative interest rates. 

The New Zealand dollar pared losses but still traded 0.14% lower at $0.6638 after the Reserve Bank of New Zealand held its official cash rate at 0.25% and made no changes to its asset purchases, which matched expectations.

(Reporting by Stanley White; Editing by Christopher Cushing and Ana Nicolaci da Costa) ((stanley.white@tr.com; +81 (0)3 4563 2799; twitter.com/stanleywhite1 ;))

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