America’s dollar steadied above one-month lows ahead of Wednesday’s much anticipated decision from the U.S. central bank. In perhaps the year’s biggest market event, the Federal Reserve is widely expected to boost its key interest rate for the first time since 2006. Anticipation the Fed would boost lending rates at a time other central banks are still the midst of maintaining low to lower interest rates has been a boon for the dollar, lifting it earlier this month to fresh multiyear highs. The well baked in event, coupled with profit-taking on one of the year’s most lucrative trades, has caused the dollar to surrender a good chunk of its recent gains. The dollar isn’t out of the woods and could experience a further loss of altitude should the Fed raise rates, but signal a low risk of an imminent rate hike in the months ahead. Both oil and the Canadian dollar tipped to new multiyear lows on Monday.
A fresh leg lower in oil weighed anew on commodity currencies like Canada’s which plumbed a new 11-year trough against the U.S. dollar. Expectations for oil supplies to exceed demand for the foreseeable future have led to a nosedive for energy prices, weighing on commodity bloc currencies such as Canada’s. The loonie faces daunting event risk this week in the Fed decision on Wednesday and Canadian inflation news on Friday.
Sterling was a penny below Friday’s three-week high against the dollar on caution ahead of the Fed, and jitters ahead of a trio of U.K. reports this week on inflation, jobs and consumer spending. The pound held comfortably above seven-month lows hit in early December against the dollar. Forecasts call for inflation (Tuesday) to stick around zero, wage growth (Wednesday) to recede, and retail sales (Thursday) to rise. Anything short of encouraging news on the inflation and wage growth fronts could see the pound take renewed aim at recent multimonth lows.
The euro drifted lower as the Fed’s big interest rate decision drifted closer. Come Wednesday, the Fed is widely expected to bump its base rate up by 25 basis points from current levels near zero. Higher U.S. borrowing rates in the wake of lower ones in the euro zone stand to prop up the dollar at the euro’s expense. Still, after the ECB’s latest dose of stimulus stopped short of shocking and awing, the euro has enjoyed surprise resilience of late as central bank policies between Europe and the U.S. haven’t proven as divergent as previously expected.
The dollar inched higher as the specter of the first Fed rate hike in years drew closer. The Fed embarks on its final two-day meeting of the year on Tuesday with a decision – and fresh forecasts for the economy – due Wednesday at 2 p.m. ET. The dollar has rallied for the better part of the year on expectations the Fed would boost its key rate before year-end. Critical for the buck will not only be the interest rate decision, but the bank’s outlook for the economy and number of rate increases it pencils in for 2016. A sense the Fed may tiptoe its borrowing rates higher could take the edge off dollar strength. But markets’ modest rate rise expectations could set the dollar up to rally should the bank sketch the potential for more than a few rate increases next year.