Dollar climbs to three-week peak on US retail data and as North Korea tensions ease

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 16 August, 2017, 7:35am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 16 August, 2017, 7:35am

The dollar rose to its highest level against a basket of major currencies in nearly three weeks on Tuesday after US retail sales data showed the largest gain in seven months.

Gains were also supported by news that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un had delayed a decision on firing missiles toward the US Pacific territory of Guam. That was taken by markets as another sign the threats were rhetorical.

The dollar rose by more than 1 per cent against the Japanese yen, touching its highest in more than a week and on pace for its largest daily rise against the yen since July 3. The euro fell to its lowest against the dollar since July 28.

The strong US data and the “spectre of cooler heads prevailing on the geopolitical front” were what pushed the dollar to its highs, said Joe Manimbo, senior market analyst at Western Union Business Solutions in Washington.

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July’s US retail sales data showed the largest gain in the reading since December 2016 and followed June’s upwardly revised 0.3 per cent gain.

Consumers boosted purchases of motor vehicles as well as discretionary spending, increasing the Commerce Department’s reading by 0.6 per cent.

“The number showed broad-based strength, it beat forecasts both on the headline and the core and what was also encouraging was how the number for June got revised from the red back into positive territory,” Manimbo said.

Currency market strategists also pointed to a general recovery by the dollar after a soggy start to the year. The greenback has fallen nearly 12 per cent year-to-date against the euro and is down more than 8 per cent against the basket of currencies used to measure its strength.

The dollar index was last up 0.45 per cent at 93.848. It earlier touched its highest level since July 26.

After paring some gains, the dollar remained higher against most major currencies, particularly the Japanese yen. The dollar was flat against the Swiss franc after rising more than 1 per cent on Monday.

Those two currencies surged last week as Washington and Pyongyang ramped up military threats following the imposition of new sanctions on North Korea through the United Nations.

Sterling also slumped after UK inflation numbers came in marginally below forecast, pushing the pound through key support levels against both the euro and dollar. The pound was 0.75 per cent lower against the dollar at US$1.2863.