Dollar firm on high US bond yields, yen in focus

Dollar firm on high US bond yields, yen in focus

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Japan’s yen weakened briefly on Monday to the 150-per-dollar level, as elevated U.S. Treasury yields kept the dollar supported across the board but without pushing it too much higher.

Investors are waiting for several events this week, including the European Central Bank meeting, and the release of U.S. GDP data and the Federal Reserve’s preferred inflation gauge.

Besides that, the risk of Israel’s war on the Islamist group Hamas becoming a wider regional conflict is keeping markets on edge, as Israeli air strikes battered Gaza early on Monday, and the United States dispatched more military assets to the region.

U.S. Treasuries are also at the forefront of investors’ minds, with 10-year yields around 4.982%, having briefly popped above 5% last week after Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said the U.S. economy’s strength and hot labour markets might warrant tighter financial conditions.

The dollar index firmed a fraction to 106.23, with the euro down 0.1% at $1.0586, and sterling flat at $1.21620.

Even though it hasn’t risen lockstep with yields, the dollar has been underpinned by the steady rise in yields at the long end of the U.S. Treasuries curve, driven by widening term premiums on expectations of stronger growth and fiscal slippage.

Since mid-July, the trade-weighted dollar index is up 6.7% but has been nearly steady this month.

“On paper, it should be a good week for the dollar. US GDP should come in at over 4% and the Fed’s preferred measure of inflation should still be running hot,” said Chris Turner, ING’s global head of markets.

“In Europe, PMIs and the ECB bank lending survey should show an economy mired in stagnation, if not recession.”

The Japanese yen last traded at 149.9 per dollar, after briefly easing early on Monday to 150.14, a level last seen on Oct. 3 when traders had suspected the Bank of Japan (BOJ) intervened to nudge it back to the stronger side of 150.

The Bank of Japan’s money market data later suggested that the yen’s sudden strengthening was most likely not the product of official Japanese intervention.

Masafumi Yamamoto, chief currency strategist at Mizuho Securities in Tokyo, said it seemed like a set of investors were betting the BOJ would defend the 150 level, even as others saw rising U.S. yields as a reason to keep pushing the dollar up.

“Potentially there are two camps out fighting around 150, so that’s why dollar-yen doesn’t move from here,” Yamamoto said.

While there was some speculation the BOJ might once again tweak its yield-curve policy band at a scheduled policy review next week, the BOJ had also shown it would not let domestic yields rise sharply, he said.

The recent surge in global interest rates is heightening pressure on the BOJ to adjust its bond yield control stance next week, with a hike to an existing yield cap set just three months ago being discussed as a possibility, Reuters reported on Monday.

The benchmark JGB yield was at 0.86%, its highest level since July 2013. Yields dipped on Friday after the BOJ announced more loans to encourage financial institutions to buy JGBs.

The ECB meets on Thursday, and a poll by Reuters shows while it is done raising rates it won’t begin easing until at least July 2024. It raised its key interest rates by 25 basis points in September.

ING’s Turner said: “it is not all bad news for the euro”.

On Friday, S&P upgraded Greece’s credit rating to investment grade, the first of the “big three” ratings agencies to do so since the country’s debt crisis erupted in 2010.

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