Dollar firm after debate, but dragged toward weekly loss by stimulus bets
Fri Oct 23 2020
Mark Cooper (1961 articles)

Dollar firm after debate, but dragged toward weekly loss by stimulus bets

The dollar inched higher at the end of a tough week on Friday, having shed almost a cent against the euro and suffered its largest weekly drop against the yen in a month, as a measured U.S. presidential debate left investors in a cautious mood.

President Donald Trump adopted a more restrained tone than in the first debate, though exchanges again focused around the handling of the Covid-19 pandemic and personal slights.

The dollar ground about 0.1% higher against a basket of currencies in the Asia session, just clear of Wednesday’s seven-week low, but still leaving it down about 0.7% for the week and in the bottom half of a months-long range.

“The market reaction is rather muted in Asian trading hours but has slightly tilted towards a more conservative sentiment as seen in the strengthened dollar index,” said Gary Ng, Asia-Pacific economist at Natixis in Hong Kong.

The safe-haven yen also rose about 0.2% to 104.70 per dollar, paring some losses made on Thursday after U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said there was progress in stimulus talks.

The yen is up about 0.7% for the week, its sharpest weekly rise since mid September, as investors who expect turbulent trade around the Nov. 3 election head for some shelter.

The euro slipped 0.1% to $1.1800 and the Australian dollar also handed back a small early-morning gain during the Trump-Biden debate. Both currencies remain more than half a percent ahead on the dollar over the week.

“People are just closing out longs ahead of the election just in case Biden isn’t (elected),” said Chris Weston, head of research at broker Pepperstone in Melbourne.

“We’re coming into that eye of the storm now where it takes a bit of a brave soul to put on new positions ahead of the election.”

Bond market bets on stimulus

Persistent hopes that Congress might pass a stimulus package before the election and confidence that spending follows anyway, no matter who gets elected, has driven a selloff in the bond market in anticipation of inflation and government borrowing.

The dollar has been sold because the prospect of stimulus has supported investors’ mood. A Biden victory, which polls predict, is seen as more likely to drive further dollar weakness as he is expected to spend more on coronavirus aid than Trump.

However betting markets showed a small movement in Trump’s favor in the immediate aftermath of the debate, bookmaker Ladbrokes said on Twitter on Friday – which helped the dollar to firm.

Elsewhere the New Zealand dollar edged down 0.1% after softer-than-expected inflation data, though it has still gained almost 1% for the week.

British and European Purchasing Managers’ Index figures are due later on Friday and could move markets if they show that a recent resurgence in coronavirus cases and the reimposition of some curbs on movement are starting to hurt economically.

Sterling slipped on Thursday on uncertainty over Brexit outlook, but it is up 1.2% this week and is clinging on above $1.30 thanks to hopes that Britain and the European Union can eventually reach some sort of trade deal.

The Chinese yuan also held its ground on the greenback after an official at China’s foreign exchange regulator said it has been more stable than expected, suggesting authorities are not too worried about its recent rise.

The yuan has gained about 7.5% since the end of May as China has led the global coronavirus recovery. It last sat at 6.6828 per dollar in onshore trade, about half a percent shy of a 27-month peak it hit on Wednesday.

“The 6.6300 levels in the USD/CNH reached on Wednesday may be a near-term bottom,” said OCBC Bank strategist Terence Wu.

“Nevertheless, this bounce should not impinge on the RMB trend. This may be an opportunity to re-enter USD/CNH shorts at 6.6800/7000 levels.”

Mark Cooper

Mark Cooper

Mark Cooper is Political / Stock Market Correspondent. He has been covering Global Stock Markets for more than 6 years.

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