Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Euro off six-month high but supported on brightening outlook in Europe

The euro pulled back from recent six-month highs on Tuesday, but remained well-supported as fading worries over political populism and signs of improving economic conditions in Europe bolstered investor confidence.

The euro fell to $1.0921 from $1.1024, its highest level in six months, hit in early Monday trade on relief after centrist Emmanuel Macron's victory in France's presidential election.

"The euro's retreat was driven solely by profit-taking. I think it is going to regain momentum over time," said Yukio Ishizuki, senior currency analyst at Daiwa Securities.

Reflecting easing concerns over European politics, the common currency gained against the safe-haven Swiss franc, hitting a seven-month high of 1.0918 franc on Monday and last stood at 1.0915.

Against the yen, it stood at 123.72 yen after Monday's one-year high of 124.58.

With the French election out of way, investors are now focusing on when and how the European Central Bank could scale back its quantitative easing given the recent strength in the euro zone economy.

The currency bloc's GDP growth in the first quarter, due next week, is expected to have outpaced anemic 0.7 percent growth in the United States in the same period. Inflation jumped back to 1.9 percent in April.

ECB board member Yves Mersch said on Monday that the central bank is close to replacing its negative view on whether the euro zone economy will reach growth targets with a neutral one, and should adjust its policy guidance accordingly.

ECB chief Mario Draghi is also due to speak at Dutch House of Representatives on Wednesday.

"I think Mersch gave us a big hint yesterday. Draghi has been dovish so far but if he changes his tone, then we could see a change of tide," said Kyosuke Suzuki, director of forex at Societe Generale.

"In the coming two months or so, I think the euro is likely to have the biggest upside potentials, given Draghi has tried to manage market expectations in dovish direction, unlike the Fed," he added.

Improving risk sentiment supported the dollar against the yen.

The dollar traded at 113.27 yen near its highest level since mid-March.

The immediate target for the dollar would be 113.40, the 50 percent retracement of its fall from the December peak of 118.66 to its April low of 108.13.

A break of that level opens the way for a test of 114.64, the 61.8 percent retracement of the same decline and 115.51, its recent peak hit on March 10.

Yet with a Federal Reserve rate hike in June almost fully priced in, some market players say the dollar may struggle to extend its rally further, especially given any stimulus by President Donald Trump is unlikely to be put in place for several months to come as he deals with a divided Congress.

"Aside from employment, we've seen some negative surprises in recent U.S. data while the Fed marches ahead to a June rate hike. I think the gap between the two will eventually bring down the dollar," said Minori Uchida, chief currency analyst at the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi.

Uchida thinks the dollar could peak out at current levels in the near term.

Elsewhere the Australian dollar dropped to as low as $0.7364, its weakest level in four months, after local retail sales posted a surprise drop of 0.1 percent in March despite expectations of 0.3 percent rise.

The Aussie is also undermined by recent weakness in various commodity prices.

Although oil prices have rebounded this week after dropping sharply late last week, to their lowest level since November when oil produced announced output cuts, copper hit four-month low on Monday on slides in Chinese imports.

Iron ore prices in China are also flirting with four-month lows.

"Resource prices are unstable. Eventually their instability could be a source of a risk-off trend although it is not the case now as the world's economic prospects look fairly good at the moment," said Daiwa's Ishizuki.


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