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Dollar dips, yen steady after inching near 152 level

Published 04/02/2024, 10:10 PM
Updated 04/03/2024, 04:05 PM
© Reuters. Banknotes of Japanese yen and U.S. dollar are seen in this illustration picture taken September 23, 2022. REUTERS/Florence Lo//File Photo

By Hannah Lang

NEW YORK (Reuters) -The dollar index fell on Wednesday, offering relief to the yen as the increased threat of currency intervention by Tokyo capped further declines in the Japanese currency.

The dollar index was last down 0.496% at 104.25, having moved lower throughout the day as the yen stabilized.

Federal Reserve officials including Chair Jerome Powell in remarks on Wednesday emphasized the need for more debate and data before interest rates are cut, a move financial markets expect to occur in June.

"There wasn't a huge shift in tone, but I think he is trying to tell market participants to look through the early-year data and to assess inflation and growth trends from a long-term perspective," said Karl Schamotta, chief market strategist at Corpay.

The dollar this week has hovered around highs not seen since November this week on the back of yet another run of resilient U.S. economic data.

Manufacturing is growing for the first time in 1-1/2 years and in March, new orders for U.S.-manufactured goods rebounded more than expected, while the labor market stayed resilient.

Traders expect about 70 basis points worth of rate cuts by the Fed this year - less than the central bank's projections - with the start of an easing cycle fully priced in for July.

The Japanese yen was last worth 151.665 per dollar, little recovered from last week's slump to 34-year lows of 151.975, as the Bank of Japan's historic policy shift only served to underscore its outlier status. It fell as low as 151.955 earlier on Wednesday.

"I think that there is a heavy level of option defense going on there with strikes placed at that 152 mark. Market participants have an incentive to act against any move through that level," said Schamotta.

While the BOJ raised rates for the first time in 17 years, its policymakers' commitments to go slow on further increases have hammered the yen especially given the still-wide Japan-U.S. yield gap.

The yen has been under pressure for years as U.S. interest rates have climbed and Japan's have stayed near zero, driving cash out of yen and into dollars to earn so-called "carry."

Japanese officials have carried on with their efforts to talk up the currency for days, with the threat of an intervention presenting stiff resistance for the U.S. dollar.

"If we do get above 152 with or without intervention, the market will feel bolder, and people are talking about that 155 area. It's hard to talk about it as resistance really, since we haven't really seen it in a generation," said Marc Chandler, chief market strategist at Bannockburn Global Forex.

Japan intervened in the currency market three times in September and October of 2022, selling the dollar to buy yen as it slid towards a 32-year low of 152 to the dollar.

Elsewhere, the euro was up 0.6% at $1.0834, while the pound was up 0.58% at $1.2652.

Data released on Wednesday showing a surprise fall in euro zone inflation last month, and solidifying the case for the European Central Bank to start lowering borrowing costs, did little to shake the common currency, as markets were already confident of a June ECB rate cut.

© Reuters. Banknotes of Japanese yen and U.S. dollar are seen in this illustration picture taken September 23, 2022. REUTERS/Florence Lo//File Photo

The Chinese yuan, which has been shaken by a resurgent U.S. dollar, last stood at 7.2320 per dollar in the onshore market, languishing near a 4-1/2-month low hit on Tuesday, despite stronger Chinese manufacturing data, and Wednesday's service sector release.

Its offshore counterpart was steady at 7.2481 per dollar.

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