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Exclusive-Bank of Israel waiting for digital euro ahead of digital shekel launch

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By Steven Scheer

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – The Bank of Israel (BOI) remains committed to plans for a digital currency to improve Israel’s payments system and foster innovation, but is unlikely to launch one ahead of other advanced economies.

“We’re all waiting for the first western central bank to pull the trigger, which is almost certainly going to be the ECB. And then you may see a rush of countries going forward with it,” Bank of Israel Deputy Governor Andrew Abir told Reuters.

As of March, 134 countries representing 98% of the global economy were exploring digital versions of their currencies, which would eventually replace cash. Some countries, such as China, are in advanced stages of pilot programs, while the U.S. Federal Reserve is lagging.

The BOI first began looking into a possible central bank digital currency (CBDC) in 2017 as a way of creating a more efficient payments system and stepped up its research and preparation in November 2020.

The bank has been experimenting with a digital shekel along with its Hong Kong, Swedish and Norwegian counterparts, as well as the Bank for International Settlements. It has invited both fintech and traditional financial companies to participate in its project, known as the “Digital Shekel Challenge” to demonstrate possible use cases.

Despite the planning and an increasingly digital global economy, the BOI still says it cannot be sure it will ultimately launch a digital shekel. Its experiment is considered an “action plan” to be ready when the bank deems appropriate and necessary.

Similarly, the ECB has said it is likely, but not inevitable, that a digital euro would be introduced in Europe, which is dependent on cross-border payment services from elsewhere, particularly U.S. giants Visa (NYSE:) and Mastercard (NYSE:).

“The big question is whether the public will adopt a digital currency,” Abir said, adding the BOI is doing a behavioural study on the subject.

QUESTIONS OVER TAKE UP

“There’s a big jump from some study to persuading people to use it. You have to have a good set of use cases.”

Abir wants an eventual digital currency to pay interest to create competition with bank deposits and provide an incentive for the public to hold it.

Israel’s banking system is highly concentrated, with two large banks dominating more than 60% of the market.

“The main incentive for us is to create a level playing field for payment providers and allow them to compete with the banks,” he said.

“An advantage of a CBDC is that the payment provider does not hold your money so you don’t (have) a credit exposure to that company. This allows a lower level of supervision and capital requirement than a traditional payments provider that holds your money, even for brief moments in time.”

A digital shekel, Abir said, will allow the public to pay with the central bank’s money “everywhere and in any transaction we choose.”

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Bank of Israel Deputy Governor Andrew Abir poses for a picture in his office in Jerusalem July 8, 2020. REUTERS/Ammar Awad/File Photo

Should the BOI decide to launch a digital shekel, it would most likely need approval from the finance and justice ministries.

“It will take time before it enters all of our lives if we decide to implement it,” Abir said. “But it has the potential to be the next revolution in payment systems.”

Forex

Dollar steady, while yen strengthens ahead of BOJ meeting

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Investing.com – The U.S. dollar traded in a stable fashion in Europe Tuesday, while the yen soared in the wake of suspected intervention by the government last week.  

At 05:40 ET (09:40 GMT), the Dollar Index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of six other currencies, edged 0.1% higher to 104.067, bouncing from last week’s four-month low. 

Dollar takes a breather

The dollar steadied Tuesday, with traders appearing to take a breather as they digest the volatile political situation with little in the way of economic data until the release of U.S. personal consumption expenditure inflation figures for June on Friday.

Vice President Kamala Harris appears on course to be the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee, but will still need to be formally nominated.

Still, Republican nominee Donald Trump was seen polling ahead of Biden and Harris as of last week, CBS and HarrisX data showed. 

Expectations of a Trump presidency has resulted in some strength in the dollar, as analysts said he would be likely to enact protectionist trade policies. 

The main economic data release this week will arrive on Friday, with June’s index set to test market expectations that the Federal Reserve is all but certain to cut interest rates in September.

Euro lower ahead of key activity data

In Europe, fell 0.2% to 1.0873, drifting lower ahead of key activity data later in the week. 

While economic growth in the eurozone remains sluggish, strength in the dominant services sector, boosted by tourism, has kept price pressures uncomfortably high.

This has posed a challenge to the ECB, so data on Wednesday will be closely watched after the kept interest rates on hold at 3.75% last Thursday and resisted offering future guidance, saying it was “data-dependent.”

Markets are pricing in almost two ECB rate cuts for the rest of the year.

traded 0.1% lower at 1.2919, falling back from the 1.30 level that the pair saw last week for the first time in a year.

The pound has received a boost from the political stability brought about by the Labour Party’s dominant electoral victory at the start of this month.

However, at the heart of this latest leg higher in the pound is the belief that British interest rates will take longer to decline than those elsewhere.

Many big central banks have started cutting rates, with the and the U.S. Federal Reserve among the last still standing still.

Data earlier this month showed that remains stubbornly high, pushing the likely starting date of the BOE’s rate-cutting cycle from August to later in the year.

Yen strengthens ahead of BOJ meeting 

In Asia, fell 0.7% to 155.94, not far from Thursday’s five-week low of 155.375, with the yen continuing to strengthen against the dollar after suspected intervention by the government last week.

A senior member of the Japanese government called for more clarity on interest rate hikes by the Bank of Japan, the reported on Tuesday. The comments come just a week ahead of a , where some analysts expect the bank to hike interest rates by 10 basis points. 

edged higher to 7.2743, remaining close to levels last seen in November. 

The currency was battered by increasing uncertainty over the Chinese economy, especially after recent data showed it grew less than expected in the second quarter.

 

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Asia FX firms as dollar stalls amid rate cut bets, political uncertainty

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Investing.com– Most Asian currencies drifted higher on Tuesday, while the dollar retreated as the greenback’s rebound was held back by continued expectations of interest rate cuts and uncertainty over the 2024 presidential election. 

Still, sentiment towards Asia remained constrained by concerns over China, amid signs of a slowing economic recovery and uncertainty over how U.S. policies will treat the country in the coming months. 

Japanese yen outperforms, USDJPY down to 156

The Japanese yen was the best performer for the day, continuing to strengthen against the dollar after suspected intervention by the government last week.

The pair fell 0.4% to 156.41 yen, coming close to a 1-½ month low.

A senior member of the Japanese government called for more clarity on interest rate hikes by the Bank of Japan, the reported on Tuesday. The comments come just a week ahead of a , where some analysts expect the bank to hike interest rates by 10 basis points. A recent increase in countrywide inflation supported this notion, although inflation still remained relatively sluggish.

Uncertainty over the BOJ has been a key weight on the yen in recent months, as the central bank provided few cues on when it will tighten policy further. 

Dollar dips with presidential race, rate cuts in focus 

The and both fell 0.1% each in Asian trade, stalling after a sharp rebound over the past two sessions. 

The greenback turned volatile amid increased uncertainty over the U.S. presidential race, after President Joe Biden said he will not seek reelection, and endorsed Vice President Kamala Harris as the Democratic nominee. 

Reports on Monday said Harris had won enough support from Democratic delegates to become the party’s presidential nominee, but will still need to be formally nominated.

Still, Republican nominee Donald Trump was seen polling ahead of Biden and Harris as of last week, CBS and HarrisX data showed. 

Expectations of a Trump presidency had enabled some strength in the dollar, as analysts said he would be likely to enact protectionist trade policies. 

But the dollar was nursing steep losses in recent weeks amid growing conviction the Federal Reserve will cut interest rates in September. The central bank is set to at a meeting next week.

Broader Asian currencies drifted higher. The Singapore dollar’s pair fell 0.1%, while the South Korean won’s pair fell 0.3%. South Korean producer inflation picked up slightly in June, data showed. 

The Indian rupee’s pair fell slightly but remained close to record highs hit earlier in July. Focus was on the Indian government’s , set to be unveiled later in the day. 

Chinese yuan fragile amid economic uncertainty

The Chinese yuan moved little on Tuesday, seeing little relief after an unexpected interest rate cut by the People’s Bank of China. 

The pair hovered around 7.2738 yuan, remaining close to levels last seen in November. 

The currency was battered by increasing uncertainty over the Chinese economy, especially after recent data showed it grew less than expected in the second quarter.

Speculation over a Trump presidency also weighed on the yuan, given that Trump’s administration had sparked a trade war with Beijing in the late-2010s. 

Concerns over China pressured some Asian currencies. The Australian dollar’s pair fell 0.1%, pressured by the country’s large trade exposure to China.

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US dollar rises slightly after Biden ends presidential campaign

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By Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss

NEW YORK (Reuters) -The U.S. dollar was slightly higher on Monday in quiet trading overall, as investors digested U.S. President Joe Biden’s decision to end his re-election campaign, a scenario which could inject more volatility into the currency market.

Against the yen, however, the dollar weakened after two straight days of gains.

Market participants also looked to next week’s crucial Federal Reserve and Bank of Japan monetary policy meetings. The Fed could signal it is ready to start its easing cycle by its next meeting in September, while the BOJ, in contrast, could start to raise interest rates, giving the yen a bit of a boost.

Investors, however, remained fixated on the U.S. presidential race.

The dollar and Treasury yields fell slightly earlier on Monday, a day after Biden announced he was ending his re-election campaign, but that has since been unwound. Former President Donald Trump, the Republican nominee, sits well ahead in betting markets.

“Overall, these moves still suggest investors are, for the most part, looking to (Donald) Trump’s first term as the best available guide for what to expect from a potential second one,” wrote Jonas Goltermann, deputy chief markets economist at Capital Economics.

“In other words, higher Treasury yields, a stronger dollar, and a generally constructive environment for equities.”

Biden has endorsed Vice President Kamala Harris to replace him as the Democratic candidate in the Nov. 5 election.

Harris quickly received the backing of many within the party, but several high-profile names stayed quiet, including former U.S. President Barack Obama. Former U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Monday afternoon officially endorsed Harris.

The – a measure of its value relative to a basket of foreign currencies – rose 0.1% to 104.32.

Amo Sahota, executive director of currency advisory firm Klarity FX in San Francisco said of all the currency pairs, the dollar/Mexican peso had the most tangible reaction to the Biden exit. The dollar was last down 0.6% at 17.925 pesos.

“Even though the polls have narrowed only slightly and not significantly, the peso liked the news that there’s another candidate other than Biden,” Sahota said.

The U.S. election aside, analysts noted that the yen could be at a turning point against the dollar after falling since the beginning of 2024, as the Fed is close to cutting rates and the BOJ is widely expected to tighten monetary policy soon.

The U.S. central bank’s rate-setting Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) and the BOJ will hold two-day policy meetings on July 30-31. Money markets have nearly fully priced in a Fed rate cut by September.

The greenback fell 0.3% versus the yen to 157.10., while the euro was last flat against the dollar at $1.0886.

Analysts flagged that the European Central Bank offered no concerted pushback at its policy meeting last week on the heavy pricing for a rate cut in September, which remains a strong base case.

The dollar firmed 0.1% to 7.29 yuan in offshore trading after the People’s Bank of China unexpectedly cut the seven-day reverse repo rate to 1.7% from 1.8%, saying the move would improve open market operations and support the real economy. That was followed minutes later by surprise reductions to the one- and five-year loan prime rates.

The Australian dollar, a proxy for China risks, sank 0.7% to U.S.$0.6640, giving up earlier gains following news of Biden’s withdrawal.

In cryptocurrencies, investors are bracing for the launch of exchange-traded funds tracking ether, the world’s second-largest cryptocurrency, over the next few days. Market players, however, are not expecting the massive inflows that bitcoin ETFs garnered when they first launched in January.

“The ether ETF launch is a sign of validation to the space,” said Darius Tabai, the CEO of Vertex (NASDAQ:), a decentralized exchange.

“Whether the ether ETF brings a lot of new money is unclear. itself has become this kind of isolated asset. And there’s not much spillover from bitcoin into the rest of crypto.”

Ether was last down 0.3%% at $3,496, while bitcoin rose 1.8% to $68,182.

Currency              

bid

prices at

22 July​

08:00

p.m. GMT

Descripti RIC Last U.S. Pct YTD Pct High Low

on Close Change Bid Bid

Previous

Session

Dollar 104.3 104.22 0.1% 2.89% 104.42 104.

index 18

Euro/Doll 1.0888 1.0883 0.04% -1.36% $1.0903 $1.0

ar 873

Dollar/Ye 157.08 157.48 -0.24% 11.38% 157.615 156.

n 3

Euro/Yen 1.0888​ 171.38 -0.21% 9.89% 171.65 170.

08

Dollar/Sw 0.8895 0.889 0.06% 5.69% 0.8902 0.88

iss 71

Sterling/ 1.2929 1.2911 0.15% 1.61% $1.2942 $1.0

Dollar 873​

Dollar/Ca 1.3752 1.3728 0.19% 3.75% 1.3775 1.37

nadian 06

Aussie/Do 0.6641 0.6685 -0.65% -2.59% $0.6702 $0.6

llar 632

Euro/Swis 0.9682 0.9672 0.1% 4.26% 0.9689 0.96

s 57

Euro/Ster 0.8418 0.8422 -0.05% -2.88% 0.8431 0.84

ling 14

NZ 0.5978 0.6009 -0.49% -5.37% $0.6027 0.59

Dollar/Do 72

llar

Dollar/No 10.9631​ 10.9225 0.37% 8.17% 11.0062 10.8

rway 781

Euro/Norw 11.9341 11.8737 0.51% 6.33% 11.9695 11.8

ay 58

Dollar/Sw 10.7209 10.6789 0.39% 6.5% 10.7383 10.6

eden 279

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: U.S. Dollar banknotes are seen in this illustration taken July 17, 2022. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

Euro/Swed 11.6732 11.6129 0.52% 4.92% 11.6834 11.6

en 001

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