US Dollar Set for Fifth Straight Week of Gains as China Stays Top of Mind

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THE US dollar was flat on Friday (Aug 18) but set for a fifth consecutive week of gains in its longest winning streak for 15 months, buoyed by demand for safer assets on worries over China’s economy and bets that US interest rates will stay high.

The People’s Bank of China (PBOC) set a much stronger-than-expected daily fixing, lifting the yuan from a nine-month low hit on Thursday. The yuan weakened against the dollar to 7.3060 in offshore trading after the PBOC set the official mid-point at 7.2006, more than 1,000 pips stronger than Reuters’ estimate. China’s economic troubles have deepened, with property developer China Evergrande seeking Chapter 15 protection in a US bankruptcy court. Concerns are also growing over default risks in its shadow banking sector.

The US dollar index, which measures the currency against six peers, edged 0.01 per cent lower at 103.380, after touching a new two-month high of 103.680 earlier in the session. For the week, it is set to gain 0.5 per cent lower.

“The dollar continues to string together this rally,” said Joe Manimbo, senior market analyst, at Convera. “With the US economy holding up much better than expected, it’s leading the market to push out the timeframe for when the Fed is likely to ease.”

Minutes from the Federal Reserve’s last meeting showed that most members of the rate-setting committee continued to see “significant upside risks to inflation”. Strong economic data during the week, particularly retail sales, also bolstered the case for additional tightening.

The dollar also saw a boost as investors appeared concerned that Chinese authorities hadn’t done enough to shore up the economy.

The PBOC cut rates earlier in the week in a surprise move that widened the yield gap against the US, rendering the yuan even more vulnerable to decline.

“People are getting a little concerned with some of the statistics we’ve seen out of China,” said Joseph Trevisani, senior analyst at FXStreet.com. “When you get a sector that appears to be as overextended as the Chinese property sector, especially the retail and commercial sector, that really has a drag on the economy,” he said.

The depreciation of the yen kept traders on edge against the risk of intervention by Japanese authorities.

The Japanese yen strengthened 0.38 per cent lower versus the greenback at 145.29 per dollar after reaching a nine-month low of 146.56 on Thursday.

“When things go south in China, traditionally or historically there’s been a move into the yen, which would strengthen the yen, but that’s not been the case this time,” said Trevisani.

In autumn of last year, the dollar’s surge beyond 145 triggered the first yen buying intervention from Japanese authorities in a generation.

The Australian dollar, which often trades as a proxy for China, rose 0.04 per cent lower to US$0.640, after hitting a nine-month low of US$0.6365 on Thursday. Elsewhere, sterling fell 0.05 per cent lower to US$1.2741 after British retailers reported a bigger-than-expected drop in sales in July. The euro edged 0.04 per cent lower higher at US$1.08745, after touching on Thursday a six-week low of US$1.0856.

Source: The Business Times