US dollar surges to 7-week peak in Fed-inspired rally

PUBLISHED : Friday, 03 March, 2017, 4:10am
UPDATED : Friday, 03 March, 2017, 4:10am

The dollar rose to a seven week high against a basket of currencies on Thursday, after hawkish comments by a Federal Reserve official late on Wednesday encouraged investors to expect a near-term interest rate hike.

Fed Governor Lael Brainard said an improving global economy and a solid US recovery mean it will be “appropriate soon” for the Fed to raise rates.

The remarks come after New York Fed President William Dudley and San Francisco Fed President John Williams rattled investors on Tuesday with more aggressive than expected language about hiking rates.

Two Fed officials hint March US rate increase maybe on the table

“We have had this slew of Fed speakers, all of whom seem to be very much favouring a rate hike very soon. It’s entirely Fed-focused at the moment,” said Craig Erlam, senior market analyst at Oanda in London.

Recent labour market and inflation data have also bolstered the case for a rate hike soon.

“We’ve had this great run of data in the US and the expectation on a March rate move has gone up,” said Steven Englander, global head of foreign exchange strategy at Citigroup in New York.

Futures traders are now pricing in an 80 per cent chance of a Fed hike in March, up from 66 per cent on Wednesday and from 35 per cent on Tuesday, according to the CME Group’s FedWatch Tool.

Fed Chair Janet Yellen and Vice Chair Stanley Fischer are both due to speak on Friday.

The dollar rose 0.45 per cent against a basket of six major currencies to 102.24, its highest since January 11. The greenback was last up 0.75 per cent against the Japanese yen at 114.56, the highest since February 15. The euro fell 0.47 per cent against the dollar to US$1.0496.

The dollar has strengthened even as many analysts see limited further gains for the currency due to worries about the impact of higher rates and a stronger dollar on global growth.

High-yielding emerging market currencies including the South Korean won, South African rand and Brazilian real have also performed strongly this year despite the rise in Treasury yields.

Ten-year US Treasury yields have failed to hold over 2.50 per cent for any prolonged period despite prices weakening dramatically since Donald Trump won the US election in November.

A sustained move higher, however, could weigh on emerging market currencies, Citi’s Englander said.