Dollar gains as stimulus nerves nudge investors to safety | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, January 27, 2021 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:50 AM, January 27, 2021

Dollar gains as stimulus nerves nudge investors to safety

The US dollar rose on Tuesday as rising coronavirus cases and doubts over the speed and size of US stimulus tempered traders' upbeat mood, while investors were also cautious ahead of the Federal Reserve's policy review later in the week.

US Treasuries held onto gains, equity markets fell in Asia, and the cautious move into safer assets pushed the dollar index higher. The greenback rose 0.1 per cent to 90.462, close to a one-week high and near the middle of a range it has held for most of the month.

The euro, which fell on Monday as German business morale slumped, is also trading in a range between support around $1.2050 and resistance at $1.2215. It slipped 0.1 per cent to $1.2128.

The yen was steady at 103.71 per dollar. The risk-sensitive Australian dollar hit a one-week low and the New Zealand dollar fell 0.4 per cent.

"Markets have come a long way on the hope that COVID goes away and governments spend a lot of money," said Westpac currency analyst Imre Speizer.

"Both of those have stalled at the moment, and so markets will stall as well," he said, adding that this had left the kiwi in a mode of "indecision" between $0.7150 and $0.7240.

"One of those needs to break to give you direction for the next couple of weeks," Speizer said. The kiwi was last at $0.7174 and the Australian dollar was down 0.4 per cent at $0.7685. Sterling slipped 0.2 per cent to $1.3645.

Tight liquidity supported the Chinese yuan. One-year onshore yuan forwards rose to their highest levels of 2021, while the onshore spot price edged up 0.1 per cent to 6.4733.

Investors last week added to bets that the dollar's months-long downtrend would extend, weighed by US budget and trade deficits. Short dollar positions have hit their highest in almost ten years, according to data last week.

But currency markets have entered a holding pattern while waiting to see whether the Democrats' big virus relief package can clear Congress and whether COVID-19 vaccines actually start turning the tide on the pandemic.

US Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Democrats may try and pass much of President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion spending package with a majority vote, but it is not clear if they have the numbers to override Republican objections.

Global coronavirus cases are creeping towards 100 million, the global death toll has surpassed 2 million, and vaccine roll-outs are running into delays and production hitches.

Drugmaker Moderna, however, said on Monday it believes its vaccine works against new variants.

Investors are bracing for soft US growth figures later in the week and expect that the Federal Reserve, which meets for two days starting on Wednesday, will indicate it will continue to provide support to the world's largest economy.

"We expect the Fed to reiterate a dovish policy signal," said MUFG currency analyst Lee Hardman in a note to clients.

"The Fed is likely to re-emphasize that it is still too early to talk about slowing the pace of quantitative easing ... despite the increased likelihood of bigger fiscal stimulus."

In cryptocurrency markets, a Monday rally in bitcoin had mostly unwound and it traded down 1 per cent at $31,744.

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