Dollar firm as China Evergrande nerves resurface

Shares in embattled developer China Evergrande were halted in Hong Kong without any immediate reason

  
U.S. one dollar banknotes are seen in front of displayed stock graph in this illustration taken February 8, 2021.

U.S. one dollar banknotes are seen in front of displayed stock graph in this illustration taken February 8, 2021.

REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

SINGAPORE: The dollar found support just below last week's peaks on Monday as renewed concerns about China's property sector and looming U.S. labour data put investors in a cautious mood.

The greenback scaled a 14-month high on the euro and a 19-month top on the yen last week as markets reckoned U.S. interest rates could rise ahead of global peers.

Shares in embattled developer China Evergrande were halted in Hong Kong without any immediate reason, rekindling market nerves about the possibility of global contagion - or at least distress in China's property sector. 

The euro dipped back below $1.16 and at $1.1595 is not far from last week's trough at $1.1563. The yen edged higher to 110.99 per dollar. Sterling, the Aussie and kiwi all eased a fraction and the offshore yuan fell 0.3%.

Investors are concerned that a collapse at Evergrande could hurt an already fragile Chinese economy and drag on global growth. The U.S. dollar index rose 0.1% to 94.049. The Australian dollar was down 0.2% to $0.7257 and the kiwi was off 0.1% at $0.6932. 

"(There's) a bit of nervousness," said Moh Siong Sim, currency analyst at the Bank of Singapore, even if most traders still think Evergrande's systemic risk can be contained.

"It's part of the wall of worry," he said, which the market could eventually "climb" if the COVID backdrop improves, growth stabilises and inflation concerns subside, but which for now is keeping investor sentiment fairly dour.

Besides Evergrande a Friday CNBC report which said U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai will announce on Monday that China is not complying with U.S.-China trade rules also provided support to the dollar, especially against the yuan. 

Chinese markets were closed for a holiday.

In the week ahead, the Reserve Bank of Australia meets on Tuesday and is expected to keep policy steady. Across the Tasman, a 25 basis point hike from the Reserve Bank of New Zealand on Wednesday is priced in.

And on Friday, U.S. labour data is expected to show continued improvement in the job market, with a forecast for 460,000 jobs to have been added in September - enough to keep the Federal Reserve on course to begin tapering before year's end.

"The question is whether there is a number that alters the Fed's view on tapering its bond purchases in November, and what a really weak or hot number means amid the backdrop of rising stagflation fears," said Pepperstone's head of research, Chris Weston.

"If U.S. treasuries find further buyers this week into Friday's U.S. non-farm payrolls, the dollar may go on sale this week."

Elsewhere economists polled by Reuters expect the cash rate on hold in Australia until at least 2024, as the RBA has been insisting it will be.

Swaps markets show a 97% probability of a rate hike in New Zealand on Wednesday and a 96% chance of another one in November. 

Sterling, meanwhile, despite Friday gains, is still nursing losses from a sharp drawdown last week when traders shrugged off hawkish central bank rhetoric to focus on a sour outlook and the risk of both higher rates and inflation.

"Investors are judging the UK by its whole suite of fundamentals factors and movements in sterling suggest that many are not liking what they are seeing," said Rabobank strategist Jane Foley, as the currency erases early 2021 gains.

"The UK no longer has an advantage on the vaccine front...and, while PM (Boris) Johnson likes to view Brexit as 'done', many businesses and commentators are only just starting to evaluate its impact."

Sterling last bought $1.1353.

Currency bid prices at 0222 GMT Description RIC Last U.S. Close Pct Change YTD Pct High Bid Low Bid

(Reporting by Tom Westbrook. Editing by Shri Navaratnam) ((tom.westbrook@tr.com; +65 6973 8284;))


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