Dollar on back foot as Biden optimism bolsters riskier currencies

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: U.S. one hundred dollar notes are seen in this picture illustration
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: U.S. one hundred dollar notes are seen in this picture illustration

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By Kevin Buckland

TOKYO (Reuters) – The dollar declined versus major peers on Thursday as optimism that new U.S. administration’s massive stimulus package will bolster growth sapped demand for safe-haven currencies.

Riskier commodity currencies were supported as Asian stocks followed U.S. equities in rising to new records after Joe Biden, who has laid out plans for a $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package, was sworn in as president.

“Risk sentiment is quite positive right now and we expect it to remain so this year, with growth expected to rebound quite strongly,” said Shinichiro Kadota, senior currency strategist at Barclays (LON:) Capital in Tokyo.

The Canadian dollar and Norwegian crown are likely to outperform, while European currencies lag, he said.

The greenback should also strengthen this year against the euro as the United States recovers faster than most other countries, he added.

The U.S. currency slipped 0.2% to C$1.2611 in Asia, declining for a third day. It touched a three-year low at C$1.2607 overnight, after the Bank of Canada opted not to cut interest rates.

The dollar slid 0.4% to 8.456 Norwegian crowns, also a third day of declines.

The dollar rose 0.4% to 77.74 U.S. cents, adding to a 0.7% rally in the previous session. Australia boasted another solid rise in employment in December, data released Thursday showed.

Biden was sworn in as the 46th president of the United States on Wednesday, vowing to end the “uncivil war” in a deeply divided country reeling from a battered economy and a raging coronavirus pandemic that has killed more than 400,000 Americans.

North of the border, the Bank of Canada said Wednesday that the arrival of a COVID-19 vaccine and stronger foreign demand is brightening the economic outlook in the medium term, opting to hold its key overnight interest rate at 0.25%. Money markets had been watching the prospect of a so-called micro rate cut of less than 25 basis points.

The dollar lost 0.2% at 103.59 yen on Thursday, another safe haven currency, after dipping to a two-week low of 103.33.

The Bank of Japan kept monetary policy unchanged on Thursday while revising up its economic forecast for next fiscal year.

The euro gained 0.2%, reversing a similar decline from the previous session, to trade at $1.2135.

The European Central Bank also decides policy Thursday, with no change expected.

European countries are struggling to contain the novel coronavirus amid worries that a new variant could lead to more stringent lockdowns and more economic pain.

The slipped 0.2% to 90.268, declining for a third day since touching a nearly one-month high of 90.956 on Monday.

The greenback started the year on a firmer footing, supported by a rise U.S. Treasury yields in response to Biden’s plan for massive stimulus.

But many analysts expect a return to the dollar downtrend that saw it lose nearly 7% in 2020 amid expectations U.S. monetary policy would stay ultra-loose and hopes for a post-pandemic global recovery.

“USD weakness vs EM and commodity FX has further to run against the backdrop of vaccine and US stimulus led global reflation, but the USD outlook vs EUR not as clear cut near term,” Westpac strategists wrote in a research note.

“A reappraisal of the US outlook in the wake of Biden’s $1.9trn fiscal spending plan vs a still weak Eurozone picture could conceivably keep USD firm vs EUR.”

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