Dollar steady, sterling waits for BoE rate cut decision
The dollar held steady above a recent six-week low on Thursday, while sterling stayed in a tight range with expectations running high that the Bank of England will cut interest rates for the first time since 2009 in a bid to ward off recession.
The dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of six major currencies, was flat at 95.565 .DXY, holding above a near six-week low of 95.003 touched earlier this week.
The dollar edged up 0.1 percent against the yen to 101.31 JPY=, while the euro held steady at $1.1144 EUR=.
The near-term focus for the dollar is whether U.S. jobs data due on Friday will revive expectations for the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates later this year.
U.S. interest rate futures suggest investors now see a 40 percent chance of a Fed rate hike by December.
Analysts say that a better-than-expected U.S. nonfarm payrolls report would give the dollar traction against the resurgent Japanese yen, which firmed after the Bank of Japan’s modest monetary easing last week disappointed investors expecting more drastic stimulus steps.
The dollar is down about 0.7 percent for the week against the yen, which prompted a verbal warning from Japan’s top currency diplomat on Wednesday.
“Current levels of the yen are very concerning, given the lack of action from the BOJ last week. They essentially put the onus on the fiscal side of the house,” said Jennifer Vail, head of fixed income research at U.S. Bank Wealth Management in Portland, Oregon.
The BOJ also said it would conduct “a comprehensive assessment” of the economy and the effects of the central bank’s policy at its next meeting in September.
BOJ Deputy Governor Kikuo Iwata on Thursday reiterated the BOJ’s readiness to ease policy again if needed, but kept investors guessing on what the comprehensive policy assessment due next month would involve, saying the review is not meant to transmit a specific direction for future monetary policy.
Analysts said Iwata’s comments did not offer any clear trading impetus for the yen.
Sterling held steady at $1.3328 GBP=, with its moves limited as investors awaited the Bank of England’s policy decision later on Thursday.
Money markets have fully priced in a quarter-point cut to the central bank’s main interest rates, and many economists and investors expect it to muster other measures to bolster the economy after Britain’s vote in June to quit the European Union.
Sterling will probably climb to levels above $1.35 if the central bank only unveils a 25 basis point rate cut, Masafumi Yamamoto, chief currency strategist for Mizuho Securities, said in a research note.
“If the BoE feels a strong need to avoid a bounce in the pound and to prevent a worsening in the British economy, it will probably decide on policy easing that exceeds the market’s expectations,” Yamamoto added.