US dollar hovers near two-decade high before inflation gauge

The dollar index was around flat at 103.92, not far from the high of 104.49 reached at the start of the week. PHOTO: REUTERS

TOKYO (REUTERS) - The US dollar (USD) hovered near a two-decade high against major peers on Wednesday (May 11), ahead of a key reading on inflation that should provide clues on how aggressive the US Federal Reserve will be in tightening monetary policy.

The dollar index, which measures the currency versus six rivals, was around flat at 103.92, not far from the high of 104.49 reached at the start of the week for the first time since December 2002.

The euro languished at 1.05305, continuing to trade mostly sideways since plumbing a more than five-year low at 1.04695 at the end of last month.

The yen continued to get some respite from a pause in the recent relentless rise in benchmark US Treasury yields, trading little changed at 130.40 per dollar, after dipping to a more than two-decade low of 131.35 on Monday.

Investors will be closely watching the April US consumer price index (CPI) reading later on Wednesday for any signs inflation may be starting to cool, with expectations calling for an 8.1 per cent annual increase compared with the 8.5 per cent rise recorded in March.

After the Fed raised its benchmark overnight interest rate by 50 basis points last week, the largest hike in 22 years, investors have been attempting to assess how aggressive the central bank will be.

Markets are priced for another hike of at least 50 basis points at the central bank's June meeting, according to CME's FedWatch Tool.

The greenback has climbed nearly 9 per cent this year amid an increasingly hawkish Fed, as inflation burned hotter than policymakers had expected.

Commonwealth Bank of Australia sees the risk tilted to further gains from here.

"The USD's reaction to the CPI will be asymmetrical in our view," the bank's currency strategist Joseph Capurso wrote in a client note.

"A positive surprise will encourage markets to increase pricing for a 75 (basis point) increase in the Funds rate later in the year and support the USD, while a negative surprise will keep pricing for 50 basis point increases in June and July intact and leave the USD steady."

The euro "remains heavy" above US$1.05, he wrote, and a strong CPI print could push the Australian dollar below US$0.69.

The Aussie ticked up 0.17 per cent to US$0.6951 on Wednesday, but not bouncing much from the 22-month trough of US$0.6911 touched on Monday.

Sterling also struggled near a 22-month low at US$1.2262 from the start of the week, last trading flat at US$1.2323.

Bitcoin nursed its wounds after dropping to the cusp of US$30,000 this week for the first time since July of last year, changing hands at US$30,758.92.

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