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FOREX-Dollar holds gains ahead of Powell, Swiss franc falls to 5-month low

Ritvik Carvalho
·3-min read

* Powell comments awaited

* Swiss franc, yen hit multi-month lows

* Aussie, Kiwi, gain

* Graphic: World FX rates https://tmsnrt.rs/2RBWI5E

By Ritvik Carvalho

LONDON, March 4, (Reuters) - The dollar hit a seven-month high against the yen on Thursday as a more orderly rise in U.S. Treasury yields lent support ahead of a speech by Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell that may determine the trend for global bond markets and currencies.

The dollar also hit a 5-month high against the Swiss franc and held on to gains against most currencies as a renewed sense of calm in the Treasury market underpinned sentiment.

However, the greenback lost ground against its Australian and New Zealand counterparts as traders who expect stronger global growth continued to stock up on commodity currencies.

Investors are anxious to see if Powell expresses concern about a recent volatile sell-off in Treasuries and if there is any change in his assessment of the economy before the Fed's next meeting ending March 17.

The dollar may extend gains versus the yen as long as Treasury yields rise at a measured pace, but the greenback is likely to fall against currencies of major commodities exporters as more signs point to a rebound in global growth.

"Comments that he (Powell) is monitoring events in the Treasury market might be enough to calm things down, encourage a return to high yield FX and a softer dollar but no such concern would suggest the Fed is happy for US Treasury yields to ‘find the right level’ – as our bond strategy colleagues say – potentially triggering another spike in US yields and more dollar short-covering," ING said in a note to clients.

The dollar rose to 107.28 yen, the highest since July last year.

The U.S. currency bought 0.92090 Swiss franc during early deals in London, its highest against the safe haven currency since October 2.

The British pound steadied at $1.3942, while the euro traded at $1.2043, down 0.15% on the day.

The benchmark 10-year Treasury yield backed down to 1.4533%, after rising earlier to 1.4910%.

A chaotic sell-off in Treasuries from the start of the year on concerns that massive government spending to support the global economy may drive up inflation culminated in 10-year yields rising to a one-year high of 1.6140% last week.

The move was so rapid that global stock markets tumbled and the dollar swooned against most currencies, but the greenback has since regained its composure as disorderly selling of Treasuries ebbed, for now at least.

The dollar index stood at 91.120 against a basket of six major currencies, holding on to a 0.32% gain from Wednesday.

The Australian dollar, which is often traded as a proxy for global growth because it is closely tied to commodities, recovered from early losses and rose to $0.7802, up 0.35% on the day.

The New Zealand dollar, another closely watched commodity currency, also firmed 0.3% to $0.7268.

Traders said the Aussie and the kiwi are likely to continue rising because both economies are rebounding strongly from the COVID-19 pandemic and they will both benefit from an acceleration in global trade.

In the cryptocurrency market, bitcoin gained 0.2% to $50,468, while rival digital currency ether gained 0.85% to $1,581.

Bitcoin has surged 78% so far this year as it gains more acceptance in the financial services industry, but the U.S. financial regulator is likely to start working on guidelines for digital assets, which could increase scrutiny of cryptocurrencies.

(Reporting by Ritvik Carvalho; additional reporting by Stanley White in Tokyo; Editing by Giles Elgood)