Yuan is slow to move, with U.S. labor statistics in focus
The Chinese yuan did not show any pronounced dynamics against the dollar on Friday as many investors remained wary as they awaited key U.S. jobs data that could affect the prospect of monetary tightening before the end of the year.
Currency traders also said the market lacked clear signals from overseas peers as a lot of currency and commodity exchanges in the West are closed due to the Easter holiday.
Before the session opened, China’s central bank set the median fixed exchange rate at a one-week low of 6.8838 per dollar, 91 points weaker than the previous value of 6.8747 yuan per dollar.
The yuan changed little near the 6.877 mark in the mainland market, while in the offshore market – around 6.8794.
“The market doesn’t have a clear direction, investors are primarily watching U.S. data,” said a trader at a foreign bank.
Investors are focused on today’s U.S. labor statistics for March, which could provide more clues about the trajectory of the tightening ACA, which could affect the dollar and other major currencies, including the yuan.
Traders said they are also watching China’s credit and trade figures, which are due out next week, to gauge the pace of recovery in the domestic economy.
“While the economy may yet have a positive surprise this year, the relatively modest official target of a 5 percent GDP increase suggests that the authorities are not chasing growth at all costs,” said Alvin Tan of RBC Capital Markets.
“The (PRC) current account surplus is likely to shrink on the back of rising consumption and resumption of outbound tourism.”
Earlier, we reported that experts doubt Moscow and Beijing’s ability to challenge the dollar.
Yen likely set for more pain against dollar as wage data to keep BoJ policy loose
The yen will likely continue to drag its heels against the dollar, MUFG says, as the latest economic Japanese data showing weaker wage growth is expected to keep the Bank of Japan leaning dovish at the policy meeting next week.
USD/JPY was up 0.1% to 139.66.
Without a shift in BoJ policy to a less dovish stance, the yen is “more likely to continue trading at weak levels,” MUFG said following weaker-than-expected wage data overnight Tuesday.
Real wages in Japan dropped 3.0% from a year earlier in April, the labor ministry reported Tuesday, steeper than the 2.0% economists had expected and will “reinforce market expectations for the BoJ to maintain current loose policy settings at this month’s policy meeting on 16th June and for the rest of this year,” MUFG added.
The weakness in April was driven by a “drop in overtime earnings, which fell for the first time in more than two years, and subdued bonus payments growth,” Daiwa Capital Markets said in a note.
The yen’s breach of 140 against the greenback on Monday stoked talk that the central bank could intervene to prop up the currency following a similar move last year when the yen topped 150 against the dollar.
But the latest data is a setback for the BoJ, MUFG says, as the central bank was expecting that the recent round of agreements by labor unions and employers to hike wages would have been reflected in the data.
“The BoJ has been expecting around 40% of the wage negotiation results to have been reflected in April with the number rising to more than 80% by July,” according to MUFG.
Dollar adrift as traders assess Fed options; Aussie buoyant
The dollar edged lower on Wednesday as traders assessed the odds of a rate hike by the Federal Reserve next week, while the Aussie scaled a fresh three-week high in the wake of a rate increase and a decidedly hawkish stance by its central bank .
The Australian dollar peaked at $0.6690 in early Asia trade, its highest since mid-May, buoyed by lingering effects of the Reserve Bank of Australia’s (RBA) quarter-point interest rate increase to an 11-year high on Tuesday.
The decision and the RBA’s hawkish policy statement had sent the Aussie rising 0.8% in the previous session, with governor Philip Lowe warning of more tightening on the cards because inflation was still too high.
“The cash rate is now 4.1%, which we think is in a deeply restrictive territory, so that obviously means that the risk of a hard landing in the Australian economy has increased,” said Carol Kong, a currency strategist at Commonwealth Bank of Australia (OTC:CMWAY).
In a speech on Wednesday, Lowe reiterated that some further tightening may still be required to bring inflation to heel, though that would depend on how the economy and inflation evolve.
In the broader currency market, the U.S. dollar dipped in early Asia trade, as traders pared back their expectations of a rate hike at next week’s FOMC meeting.
Against the greenback, sterling rose 0.08% to $1.2432, while the kiwi gained 0.08% to $0.6084.
Money markets are pricing in a roughly 19% chance that the U.S. central bank will raise rates by 25 basis points next week, compared to an over 60% chance a week ago, according to the CME FedWatch tool.
Data out last week showed that the U.S. services sector barely grew in May as new orders slowed, pushing a measure of prices paid by businesses for inputs to a three-year low, a welcome sign for the Fed in its fight against inflation.
“We don’t think the FOMC will hike next week … but risks again are skewed to the upside,” said Kong.
The U.S. dollar index slipped 0.03% to 104.05, while the euro rose 0.07% to $1.0698.
Euro zone consumers lowered their inflation expectations, a European Central Bank survey showed, a relief for policymakers after an unexpected surge a month earlier.
Against the Japanese yen, the greenback slipped 0.27% to 139.26.
Elsewhere, the Turkish lira slid nearly 2% to a fresh record low of 21.99 per U.S. dollar, while the Canadian dollar rose to a fresh one-month high of C$1.3388 to the greenback ahead of an interest rate decision later on Wednesday.
In the cryptoverse, bitcoin, the world’s biggest cryptocurrency, was last marginally higher at $27,273, after jumping nearly 6% on Tuesday.
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on Tuesday sued Coinbase (NASDAQ:COIN), accusing the largest U.S. cryptocurrency platform of operating illegally because it failed to register as an exchange, a move which came just a day after the regulators sued Binance, the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange, and its CEO Changpeng Zhao.
“Bitcoin is trading higher … on a flight to the quality end of crypto,” said Tony Sycamore, a market analyst at IG Markets.
Binance’s BNB token was up 0.45% at $283.13, having plunged 9.2% on Monday.
Asia FX muted as Chinese, Australian economic data disappoints
Most Asian currencies were muted on Wednesday as weaker-than-expected economic prints from China and Australia soured sentiment towards the region, while anticipation of an upcoming Federal Reserve meeting also weighed.
The Chinese yuan reversed early gains and traded flat after data showed the country’s trade surplus sank to a 13-month low in May, driven chiefly by a surprise tumble in exports. The reading showed that overseas demand for Chinese goods remained weak amid worsening economic conditions across the globe, presenting new headwinds for China as it struggles to recover from three years of COVID disruptions.
The Australian dollar was flat as the country’s economy barely grew in the first quarter, amid pressure from high interest rates and inflation.
But the Aussie took some support from comments by Reserve Bank Governor Philip Lowe, who reiterated that local interest rates may need to rise further in order to curb overheated inflation. The RBA had hiked interest rates again on Tuesday, bringing them above 4% for the first time in 12 years.
Most other Asian currencies moved little, given that the prospect of a weak Chinese economy bodes poorly for countries with high exposure to the Asian giant.
The Japanese yen was a clear outperformer for the day, rising 0.3% from near six-month lows as recent losses in the currency spurred speculation that the government could once again intervene in currency markets to support the yen.
A dovish outlook from the Bank of Japan greatly reduced the yen’s appeal in a high-yield environment, which had in turn spurred steady intervention through late-2022.
Weak inflation and wage growth readings for recent months spurred more bets that the BOJ will maintain its ultra-loose policy in the near-term.
The Indian rupee moved little ahead of a Reserve Bank meeting this week.
The dollar was flat in Asian trade after a muted overnight session, with the dollar index and dollar index futures moving less than 0.1% in either direction. While weak U.S. economic data spurred some losses in the dollar this week, it remained steady near 11-week highs as markets grew uncertain over a Federal Reserve meeting next week.
Fed Fund futures prices show markets are positioning for a nearly 82% chance the central bank will keep rates steady. But given that recent inflation and labor market data beat expectations, traders remained wary of a potential 25 basis point hike by the Fed.
Still, even if the Fed decides to pause its rate hike cycle, markets see little chances of a rate cut this year, with high interest rates set to weigh on most Asian currencies.
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