Currency markets calm in potential Omicron 'eye of the storm'

The euro was steady versus the dollar at $1.13205

  
George Washington is seen with printed medical masks on the one Dollar near Euro banknotes in this illustration taken, March 31, 2020. Image used for illustrative purpose

George Washington is seen with printed medical masks on the one Dollar near Euro banknotes in this illustration taken, March 31, 2020. Image used for illustrative purpose

REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

LONDON - Currency markets steadied on Thursday as investors waited for clues on the threat posed by the Omicron coronavirus variant and the speed at which the U.S. Federal Reserve will taper stimulus.

The dollar edged lower against most rival currencies, while the cautious mood was reflected by equity markets in Europe falling in morning trade.

The United States recorded its first case of the Omicron variant on Wednesday, weighing on markets. The United States and Germany joined countries around the globe planning stricter COVID-19 restrictions on Thursday. 

"It seems like the market is getting a breather this Thursday morning in what could be the eye of the storm," FX analysts at Citi said in a note.

The dollar index, which tracks the greenback against six major currencies, was down 0.2% on the day at 95.892. 

The index swung lower last week after news of Omicron first emerged, although it remains close to a 16-month high of 96.938 hit last month.

Currency volatility trackers remain at multi-month highs, however, suggesting big moves could still be in store.

Traders are also awaiting clarity on how quickly the Federal Reserve will taper its asset purchases, as central banks around the world grapple with how fast to unwind stimulus amid soaring inflation.

Fed Chair Jerome Powell reiterated in testimony to Congress on Wednesday that he and fellow policymakers will consider swifter action at their Dec. 14-15 meeting. 

"Fed Chair Powell signalled clearly this week that the Fed is becoming more concerned over the persistence of higher inflation, and emphasized that they are prepared to take policy action to address upside risks to inflation," MUFG FX analysts said in a note.

"The comments provided strong guidance that the Fed is likely to speed up the pace of QE tapering in December."

The euro rose 0.2% versus the dollar at $1.13370.

The yen - which strengthened over the past week as investors sought safe havens - fell back 0.2% versus the dollar to 112.94. 

Sterling rebounded by 0.4%, lifting it above $1.33. 

> (Reporting by Iain Withers; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise and Nick Macfie) ((Iain.withers@tr.com))


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