Even as the dollar touched a fresh 20-year high today, fuelled by hawkish comments by Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell, the euro kept the American currency in check, supported by growing expectations for European Central Bank (ECB) rate hikes. The dollar index, which measures the currency's value against a basket of peers, scaled a fresh two-decade peak of 109.48 before retreating.
The American currency was up 0.73% against Japan's yen, while Britain's pound notched a fresh 2-1/2 year low in thin trading, with the UK on a public holiday.
Powell told the Jackson Hole central banking conference in Wyoming on 26 August that the Fed would raise rates as high as needed to restrict growth, and would keep them there "for some time" to bring down inflation that is running at more than three times the Fed's 2% goal. "Powell's comments endorsed the pricing of a higher Fed funds rate for a longer period," said Kenneth Broux, a currency strategist at Societe Generale. "The assumption that the Fed would start cutting rates in mid-2023 is premature."
Money markets ramped up bets for a more aggressive Fed rate hike in September, with the chances of a 75 basis point hike now seen around 70%. Notwithstanding the populist announcement by US President Joe Biden to waive off student loan repayments, US Treasury yields shot up, with two-year bond yields hitting a 15-year high at around 3.49%.
The euro clawed its way higher, helped by "ECB comments and rumours including contemplation of a 75 bps hike at the September 8th ECB meeting," said Derek Holt, head of capital markets economics at Scotiabank.
How euro is helping check further rise of dollar
The euro was last up 0.34% against the dollar but remained below parity at $ 0.99985.
ECB board member Isabel Schnabel warned on 27 August that central banks risk losing public trust and must act forcefully to curb inflation, even if that drags their economies into a recession. "Central banks have no interest in being anything but hawkish right now, given inflation, so they will hike rates aggressively," said Nordea chief analyst Jan von Gerich.
A comment by German Economy Minister Robert Habeck that he expects gas prices to fall soon, with Germany making progress on its storage targets, may also have supported the euro.
The dollar index, after hitting its highest level in 20 years, pulled back, mainly based on the euro's rise, and was down 0.403% at $ 108.74 at 10:40 AM (8:10 PM in India).
Sterling fell to a 2-1/2-year low of $ 1.1649 versus the greenback and was last down 0.14% at $ 1.1713.
In cryptocurrencies, bitcoin recovered some ground to trade back above the $ 20,000 level.