Dollar licking wounds, gold holds above US$1,800 as Covid-19 fears persist

The US dollar index fell just over 0.5 per cent to a one-week low of 92.994. PHOTO: REUTERS

SINGAPORE/BENGALURU (REUTERS) - The dollar was smarting on Tuesday (Aug 24) following its sharpest one-day fall since May, though traders were wary of chasing the mood-driven move lower ahead of a Federal Reserve symposium that could map out an end to stimulus and asset purchases.

The greenback dropped more than 1 per cent against the Australian dollar, Norwegian crown, Swedish crown and Canadian dollar overnight, and fell by almost that much against the kiwi, as markets focused on positive Covid-19 news and stocks jumped higher.

The euro rose 0.4 per cent to US$1.1745. The US dollar index fell just over 0.5 per cent to a one-week low of 92.994, busting through an uptrend that had been gaining momentum and lifted the index by 1 per cent last week.

"A positive risk backdrop has pushed flows out of the dollar," said Mr Chris Weston, head of research at brokerage Pepperstone in Melbourne, adding that positive analyst commentary around oil and cyclical stocks had also helped the broad mood.

"But I wouldn't be going short dollars just because of this... it could easily flip up going in to Jackson Hole," he said, referring to the Fed's Friday symposium.

Further moves were slight early in the Asia session, leaving the Aussie steady at US$0.7280, the kiwi at US$0.6888 and sterling at US$1.3720.

The Japanese yen and Swiss franc both rose above their 20-day moving averages as the dollar weakened, leaving the yen at 109.70 per dollar and the franc at 0.9123 per dollar.

Data overnight showed strong, but slowing services and manufacturing activity in Europe, while business activity growth in the United States slowed for a third straight month as the spread of the Delta virus variant took a toll.

For some investors, that casts enough uncertainty over the outlook to make it unlikely that the Fed delivers much of a signal at all during the symposium, putting pressure on the currency because it has gained with taper expectations.

"The weight of positioning and expectations leaves the dollar exposed in the event Jackson Hole does not produce a clear and imminent Fed taper signal," Westpac strategists said in a note.

"But any setback likely proves short-lived if key Fed officials stress confidence that 'substantial further progress' is on the horizon and that a slowing of asset purchases could commence in coming months."

In the meantime, traders are again focused on Covid-19 outbreaks in Asia - with China appearing to be gaining control of cases and investors hoping that New Zealand can do likewise.

New Zealand is under a national lockdown until Friday as an outbreak tops 100 cases, but the currency joined in the overnight bounce and the probability of a rate hike in October has crept back above 40 per cent.

"On balance, the market seems to be slanting towards the view that NZ will beat Delta, and if that is the case, that should put (interest rate) hikes and carry back on the table later in the year," said analysts at ANZ Bank.

"The market has seen the kiwi bounce off $0.68 when all the chips were down, and that'll likely be a solid base of support for now."

Meanwhile, gold prices hovered above the key psychological level of US$1,800 on Tuesday. Spot gold eased 0.2 per cent to US$1,801.65 per ounce by 0321 GMT (11.21am Singapore time), having jumped about 1.4 per cent in the previous session.

US gold futures were down 0.1 per cent at US$1,804.10.

The fact that gold again breached the US$1,800 level says that the market is still quite concerned about the Delta variant, OCBC Bank economist Howie Lee said.

IHS Markit data showed that US business activity growth slowed for a third straight month in August, with the fast-spreading Delta variant weakening the momentum of the rebound.

"The US$1,850 level is everything for gold and if after the Jackson Hole Symposium, prices can't make a fresh August high, bullion investors might be quick to the sidelines," Oanda senior market analyst Edward Moya said in a note.

Meanwhile, holdings of SPDR Gold Trust fell 0.5 per cent to 1,006.66 tonnes on Monday, their lowest since April 2020.

Silver fell 0.4 per cent to US$23.56 per ounce, while platinum edged 0.2 per cent lower to US$1,011.66.

Palladium was up 0.2 per cent at US$2,403.76. Prices climbed 5.5 per cent in the previous session, the biggest one-day gain since May 2020.

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