Dollar calm as traders await clues on US rate path

The dollar was broadly steady on Monday as investors awaited further clues to help chart the U.S. interest rate path in the wake of cautious comments from Federal Reserve officials, even as inflation shows signs of cooling.
The Japanese yen was flat at 155.74 per dollar, with traders on alert for any signs of government intervention. The currency has moved in tight ranges in the past couple of trading days after a tumultuous start to May in the wake of suspected rounds of currency interventions by Tokyo to prop up the yen.

Data last week showed U.S. consumer prices for April rose less-than-expected, leading to markets pricing in 50 basis points (bps) of easing, or at least two rate cuts this year, but various Fed officials have sounded words of caution about when rates may fall.
That has prompted traders to trim the amount of easing expected this year to about 46 bps, with only a rate cut in November fully priced in.

The spotlight will now be on the upcoming Personal Consumption Expenditures (PCE) price index report – the Fed’s preferred gauge of inflation – due on May 31.
“The Fed will not have enough data by the June or the July meeting to be confident enough to cut rates,” said Brian Jacobsen, chief economist at Annex Wealth Management.
“Come August, (Fed) Chair Powell could take the Jackson Hole conference as a time to explain their thinking around the path ahead, teeing up a September cut. Let’s just hope the data cooperates.”

Markets will also focus on minutes of the Fed’s last meeting due on Wednesday. Flash PMIs for euro zone, Germany, the UK and the U.S. are also due this week, along with a roster full of Fed speakers
While the Fed will have been heartened by the April CPI report, the U.S. central bank will require a little more convincing that inflation is headed back to its target of 2% sustainably before it will consider easing policy, ANZ analysts said.

On Monday, the euro was up 0.13% at $1.08825, stalking the nearly two-month high of $1.0895 it touched last week. The single currency is up 2% so far in May, set for its strongest monthly performance since November.
Markets are currently pricing in 66 bps of easing from the European Central Bank this year, with the central bank last month making it clear that its next move will be a cut, most likely in June.
What comes after that remains unclear, with officials calling for caution.
The dollar index , which measures the U.S. currency against six rivals, was little changed at 104.44. The index, which is down 1.7% this month, is set for its weakest monthly performance this year.
In other currencies, sterling touched a two-month high of $1.2711 ahead of the crucial UK inflation report due on Wednesday. Markets are pricing in 56 bps of cuts from the Bank of England with the first one expected in June.
Paul Mackel, global head of FX research at HSBC, said it has been well understood since the last BoE meeting that the June rate cut scenario depends on this week’s CPI data and the next inflation report due June 19. The BoE will meet on June 20.
The Australian dollar was up 0.18% at $0.67055, hovering close to its four-month peak while the New Zealand dollar was last at $0.61295, not far from its two-month high.
The Reserve Bank of New Zealand will decide on policy on Wednesday and is expected to leave its benchmark cash rate at 5.5%, with the key question being whether it will change the projected outlook for rates out to next year.
The kiwi’s rally could be reinforced if the RBNZ challenges the market’s expectations for policy easing by year’s end in its upcoming announcement, according to Charu Chanana, head of currency strategy at Saxo.

SOURCE: REUTERS

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