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Economy

Dollar set for sixth week of gains despite slip, as slowdown worries persist

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© Reuters. A money changer counts U.S. dollar banknotes at a currency exchange office in Ankara, Turkey November 11, 2021. REUTERS/Cagla Gurdogan/Files

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By Chuck Mikolajczak

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The dollar edged lower on Friday, but was still set for a sixth straight week of gains as investors remained concerned about the possibility of global growth slowing and Federal Reserve policy tilting the U.S. into a recession.

High inflation and the Fed’s rate hike path have fueled worries of a policy error that could cause recession or a stagflation scenario of slowing growth and high prices. Readings this week showed some signs that inflation was beginning to ebb, although at a slow pace.

The dollar showed little reaction on Friday to data showing U.S. import prices were unexpectedly flat in April as a decline in petroleum costs offset gains in food and other products, a further sign that inflation has probably peaked.

Other data from the University of Michigan showed its preliminary reading of consumer sentiment for early May deteriorated to its lowest level since August 2011 as concerns about inflation persisted.

“By and large we are still looking at a market that is freaked out in about 16 different directions,” said Joseph Trevisani, senior analyst at FXStreet.com.

“Equities are, they are worried about the U.S. growth this year, Europe is looking dicey to put it mildly and China is insisting on this fanatical COVID policy, none of that bodes well for the global economy so you are still seeing a lot of people resort to the dollar in its traditional safety role.”

Investors have gravitated towards the safe haven on concerns about the Fed’s ability to dampen inflation without causing a recession, along with worries about slowing growth arising from the Ukraine crisis and the economic effects of China’s zero-COVID-19 policy.

The dollar index fell 0.115% at 104.640 against a basket of major currencies after earlier reaching 105.01, its highest since Dec 2002, The U.S. currency is on track for its sixth straight week of gains, its longest weekly streak of the year and has climbed more than 9% for 2022.

Fed Chair Jerome Powell said late Thursday that its fight to bring inflation in check would “include some pain” as the impact of higher interest rates is felt, but that the worse outcome would be for prices to continue speeding ahead.

The euro was up 0.14% to $1.0394, reversing course after dipping to 1.0348, its lowest since Jan 3, 2017.

The single currency was on track for its fifth weekly drop in six and has been hurt by both fears resulting from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine stymieing the economy and the dollar rally.

While the European Central Bank is widely anticipated to begin hiking rates in July, the central bank is expected to adopt a less aggressive pace than the Fed.

The Japanese yen weakened 0.80% versus the greenback at 129.38 per dollar, while Sterling was last trading at $1.2216, up 0.14% on the day.

The safe-haven yen has also begun to strengthen against the greenback, and was on track for its first weekly gain versus the dollar after nine straight weeks of declines.

In cryptocurrencies, Bitcoin last rose 7.58% to $30,707.03. Bitcoin earlier this week fell to its lowest level since December 2020 as cryptocurrencies have been rattled by the collapse of TerraUSD, a so-called stablecoin.

Ethereum last rose 10.34% to $2,126.13.

Economy

Dollar slips from 2-decade highs; yuan falls on weak China data

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: U.S. dollar banknotes are displayed in this illustration taken, February 14, 2022. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

By Sinéad Carew

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The U.S. dollar index was lower on Monday after hitting a 20-year peak last week, with the global economy in focus after weak economic data from China highlighted worries about the prospects for a global slowdown.

Creating a risk-off mood on Monday, China’s retail and factory activity fell sharply in April as extensive COVID-19 lockdowns confined workers and consumers to their homes. But Shanghai did set out plans for the return to more normal life from June 1.

Following the release of China’s data, Bipan Rai, North America head of FX Strategy at CIBC Capital Markets, said trading was focused on macro economic data on Monday.

“It’s important to highlight that the risks are towards a stronger dollar and primarily, that’s because if you look at the macro economic climate, the fundamentals don’t look good. From a risk-off perspective that should still support the dollar against most currencies,” Rai said.

But he said the greenback was consolidating after its recent strength and that more range-bound trading sessions were possible: “It makes sense for some period of consolidation before the next leg higher.”

Trading in the dollar may be muted partly because a lot of bad news has already been priced in but also because investors are waiting for events such as the U.S. retail sales data release and a public appearance by Fed Chair Jerome Powell both scheduled for Tuesday, according to Mazen Issa, senior FX strategist at TD Securities. [nL2N2X52F6]

Still Issa said he doesn’t “think we’re in a market where we’re going to see the dollar weaken … It’s going to take a lot to get investors out of the dollar.”

The euro was pulled from its earlier lows after European Central Bank policymaker Francois Villeroy de Galhau said the common currency’s weakness could threaten the ECB’s efforts to steer inflation towards its target.

The Australian dollar, which is highly exposed to the Chinese economy, reversed course as the day wore on and was last up against the dollar after falling as much as 0.9%.

The dollar index was last down 0.37% at 104.16, after briefly crossing the 105 level on Friday – its highest level since December 2002, after six successive weeks of gains. Weekly positioning data showed that investors had built their long dollar bets.

The euro was up 0.26% at $1.0438 but not far from last week’s low of $1.0354, its lowest level since early 2017. Analysts see $1.0340 as a crucial level of euro support.

HSBC strategists expect the euro to fall to parity against the dollar in the coming year. “Much weaker growth and much higher inflation leave the ECB facing one of the toughest policy challenges in G10 (central banks),” they said.

Crypto markets, which trade around the clock, had a quiet weekend after turmoil last week driven by TerraUSD, a so-called stablecoin, which broke its dollar peg. An affiliate of the company behind TerraUSD said it had spent the bulk of its reserves trying to defend its dollar peg and would use the remainder to try to compensate some users who had lost out.

Bitcoin was last trading at around $29,881, down more than 4%, after having dropped to $25,400 on Thursday, its lowest mark since December 2020.

Currency bid prices at 3:03PM (1903 GMT)

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Economy

Taliban dissolve Afghanistan’s Human Rights Commission, other key bodies

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: An Afghan woman walks on a street in Kabul, Afghanistan, May 9, 2022. REUTERS/Ali Khara/File Photo

By Mohammad Yunus Yawar

KABUL (Reuters) – Taliban authorities in Afghanistan dissolved five key departments of the former U.S.-backed government, including the country’s Human Rights Commission, deeming them unnecessary in the face of a financial crunch, an official said on Monday.

Afghanistan faces a budget deficit of 44 billion Afghanis ($501 million) this financial year, Taliban authorities said on Saturday as they announced their first annual national budget since taking over the war-torn country last August.

“Because these departments were not deemed necessary and were not included in the budget, they have been dissolved,” Innamullah Samangani, the Taliban government’s deputy spokesman, told Reuters.

Also dissolved was the High Council for National Reconciliation (HCNR), the once high-powered National Security Council, and the commission for overseeing the implementation of the Afghan constitution.

The HCNR was last headed by former Afghan President Abdullah Abdullah, and was working to negotiate a peace between the U.S.-backed government of former President Ashraf Ghani and the then-insurgent Taliban.

In August 2021, 20 years after invading Afghanistan, foreign forces withdrew from the country leading to the collapse of the government and a Taliban takeover.

Samangani said the national budget was “based on objective facts” and intended only for departments that had been active and productive.

He added that the bodies could be reactivated in the future “if needed”.

The Taliban ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001 with an iron fist and implemented a harsh version of Islamic rule, including banning women from education and work. After taking over last year, the Taliban assured the world they would be more moderate.

However, they are yet to allow older girls to restart education, and have also introduced rules that mandate that women and girls wear veils and requiring them to have male relatives accompany them in public places.

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Economy

U.S. SEC chair says much to be done to protect crypto investors

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Representations of virtual cryptocurrencies are placed on U.S. dollar banknotes in this illustration taken November 28, 2021. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

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By John McCrank

(Reuters) – Cryptocurrency assets are highly speculative and investors in them need more protections or they could lose trust in the markets, Gary Gensler, chair of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, said on Monday.

Generally, people who buy cryptocurrencies do not get the disclosures they get when they make other asset purchases around things like whether the trading platform they are using is actually trading against them, or whether they actually own the assets they store in digital wallets, Gensler said.

“We have this basic bargain: You the investing public can make your choices about the risk you take, but there is supposed to be full and fair disclosure, and people are not supposed to lie to you,” he said at the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s annual conference in Washington.

His comments came after last week’s spectacular collapse of TerraUSD, a so-called stablecoin that lost its 1-to-1 dollar peg.

The token’s crash sent cryptocurrencies tumbling, a slide that resumed on Monday, as bitcoin erased the gains it had eked out over the weekend to trade under $30,000, far below its Nov. 10 record of $69,000.

While crypto markets are thought of as decentralized, the reality is that most activity occurs on a handful of trading platforms, which, along with token issuers, need to work with the SEC to improve industry rules and disclosures, Gensler said.

He pointed to basic market principles like, “anti-fraud, anti-manipulation, making sure there’s not front-running, making sure an order book is actually real and not made up.”

The SEC will continue to be “a cop on the beat,” while working with the Commodity Futures Trading Commission to ensure all cryptocurrencies are covered, Gensler said.

“There’s a lot to be done here, and in the meantime the investing public is not that well protected,” he said.

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