US dollar weakens on doubts about March rate hike

The US dollar (above) is at its lowest level to the euro since last October.
The US dollar (above) is at its lowest level to the euro since last October. PHOTO: REUTERS

Speculation that the United States may delay further interest rate increases has sent the greenback tumbling against a broad range of currencies.

The US dollar was trading at around 1.4034 Singdollar last night, down 1.9 per cent since 7pm on Wednesday.

It also dipped 1.5 per cent against the yen over the same period, erasing all the gains since the Bank of Japan's move to negative interest rates last Friday.

The US dollar is also at its lowest level to the euro since last October, after a drop of 2.3 per cent.

The greenback's decline came after New York Federal Reserve president William Dudley was quoted on Wednesday as saying that financial conditions have tightened since last December, raising doubts among market watchers that rates will rise next month.

There are signs of a slowdown in the US economy and global demand remains weak.

Mr Heng Koon How, senior currency strategist at Credit Suisse Private Banking Asia Pacific, told The Straits Times yesterday: "(Today's) US non-farm payrolls for January is now an important economic figure. If it turns out to be weaker than expected, then the odds of a Fed rate hike will be much lower as a result."

Economists surveyed by Bloomberg say the payroll data will show the US created fewer than 200,000 jobs - the first time that would have happened since last September.

Standard Chartered economist Jeff Ng pointed out that a slowing US economy is likely to moderate the pace of rate hikes this year.

"We expect a 1.6 per cent gross domestic product growth in 2016, from 2.4 per cent in 2015," he said.

Key factors in private consumption, such as motor vehicle sales, are also likely to slow down while jobs creation was likely to have peaked in 2014 and should continue to slow this year, said Mr Ng.

He said a slower pace of rate hikes will prevent the US dollar from strengthening, and predicts the greenback will weaken slightly against the Singdollar over this year, to move from 1.46 at the end of next month to 1.41 by the year end.

But Mr Heng views the US dollar fall as a temporary weakness, tipping that it will trade at 1.48 Singdollar 12 months from now.

"We continue to see strengthening of the US dollar across the year, particularly against various Asian currencies," he said.

"Asia is still plagued by export contraction, weak inflation trajectory and a weakening Chinese yuan."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 05, 2016, with the headline 'US dollar weakens on doubts about March rate hike'. Print Edition | Subscribe