Dollar in demand after Fitch signals possible U.S. rating downgrade

Dollar in demand after Fitch signals possible U.S. rating downgrade

At 02:55 ET (06:55 GMT), the Dollar Index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of six other currencies, rose 0.2% to 103.955, just below the 104.05 overnight peak, the highest level since mid-March.

The dollar’s safe haven status has meant that it has benefited from the lack of progress in the talks to lift the U.S. government’s $31.4 trillion debt ceiling, with the early-June deadline that Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said is when it’s “highly likely” that her department will run out of money drawing nearer.

This uncertainty has resulted in ratings agency Fitch putting the United States’ prized “AAA” rating on watch for a possible downgrade, adding to the jitters in global markets.

“Fitch still expects a resolution to the debt limit before the X-date,” the credit agency said in a report.

“However, we believe risks have risen that the debt limit will not be raised or suspended before the X-date and consequently that the government could begin to miss payments on some of its obligations.”

The dollar has also been boosted by a more hawkish view of the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy actions this year, with the U.S. economy proving resilient to the aggressive tightening to date.

Minutes from the Fed’s last meeting, released Wednesday, showed that officials were divided over whether further interest-rate increases would be necessary to lower inflation, but the labor market and price pressures have all proven more resilient than expected following that May meeting.

Data due for release later Thursday include U.S. weekly jobless claims and a second estimate of first-quarter U.S. GDP.

Elsewhere, EUR/USD fell 0.1% to 1.0739, close to a two-month low, after data released early Thursday showed that the German economy, the largest in Europe, contracted slightly in the first quarter of 2023 compared with the previous three months, thereby entering recession.

Officials at the European Central Bank have tended to point towards further interest rate increases in order to tame inflation, with Governing Council member Bostjan Vasle the latest to do so.

However, growth is proving hard to find in the region, and this tone could soon change.

Bundesbank head Joachim Nagel and ECB chief economist Philip Lane are both scheduled to speak later this session, and their comments are likely to be studied carefully.

GBP/USD edged lower to 1.2363, not far removed from its weakest level since April 3, while the risk-sensitive AUD/USD dropped slightly to 0.6541.

USD/JPY drifted lower to 139.45, just off a six-month high, with the yen suffering after two-year U.S. Treasury yields extended to highs not seen since mid-March.

USD/CNY rose 0.1% to 7.0685, with the pair near a near six-month high as fears of a renewed COVID outbreak added to concerns over slowing economic growth in China.

USD/TRY rose 0.1% to 19.9163 ahead of the latest monetary policy decision by Turkey’s central bank. It is expected to hold rates unchanged for a third consecutive month as it tries to keep the lira stable just days before a presidential runoff.

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