By Samuel Indyk and Tom Westbrook
LONDON (Reuters) – The dollar held firm on Monday following five straight weeks of gains, as investors looked ahead to the Federal Reserve’s Jackson Hole symposium for guidance on where rates might settle when the dust of this hiking cycle clears.
The U.S. dollar made a gain of 0.7% on the euro last week, inched ahead versus the yen and surged by more than 1% against the Antipodean currencies as U.S. Treasury yields leapt in anticipation of interest rates staying higher for longer.
The Australian dollar, at $0.6402, and the New Zealand dollar, at $0.5919, were pinned close to last week’s nine-month lows after a rate cut from China disappointed markets worried about a stalling economy.
China cut its one-year benchmark lending rate by 10 basis points and left its five-year rate unchanged, against economists’ expectations for larger 15 bp cuts to both.
The yuan slid to the weak side of 7.3 per dollar despite a firm fixing of its trading range by the central bank.
It last traded at 7.3077, though it has so far kept off last week’s lows beyond 7.31 that had brought state banks into spot markets in London and New York hours as buyers.
“Authorities are very alert to the risks of reigniting the property market boom and that almost by default leaves the currency going lower as the way policy is eased as a kind of escape valve,” said Adam Cole, chief currency strategist at RBC Capital Markets.
“That’s what we expect going forward, and not surprisingly that spills over into G10, principally to Aussie dollar underperformance.”
The Antipodean currencies often function as a liquid proxy for the yuan, owing to the region’s exports to China, and are doubly vulnerable as the rate outlook drives up the greenback.
Like the yuan, the yen is also on intervention watch, having fallen to levels around which authorities stepped in last year. It was steady at 145.44 a dollar in early European trade.
The euro edged up to $1.0885. Sterling hovered at $1.2726. The Swiss franc was just above a six-week low hit last week at 0.88 per dollar.
The dollar index, which measures the currency against six other majors, was last down 0.06% at 103.33, in close proximity to Friday’s two-month high of 103.68.
Apart from waiting in vain for news of stimulus in China, the upcoming Jackson Hole symposium – where Fed chair Jerome Powell is set to speak on Friday – is the major market focus and may set the direction for U.S. Treasury yields.
Ten-year yields rose 14 basis points for the week and touched a 10-month high of 4.328%, within a whisker of a 15-year high. Thirty-year yields rose nearly 11 bps to their highest in more than a decade. [US/]
The theme this year for the annual gathering in Wyoming is “structural shifts in the global economy”.
“Two things that may come across are: decades of ultra-low rates backed by ultra-low inflation may be over,” said Vishnu Varathan, head of economics and strategy at Mizuho Bank in Singapore.
“And global policy-makers may prefer to maintain restrictive real rates for a while, thereby keeping risks from volatile inflation alive.”
Bitcoin, which was battered to a two-month low last week as rising U.S. yields and China’s slowing economy drove a wave of selling, nursed those losses at $26,000.
(Reporting by Samuel Indyk in London and Tom Westbrook in Singapore; Editing by Miral Fahmy and Clarence Fernandez, Kirsten Donovan)
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