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Dollar's strength largely depends on Fed rate increase timing

Whether the dollar retains its strength mostly depends on how much longer the United States Federal Reserve delays its first interest rate hike in almost a decade, a Reuters poll found on Wednesday. Forty-six of 66 foreign exchange strategists surveyed this week said a further delay posed a significant risk to dollar strength and two said the risk was very significant. Only 18 said it was insignificant and none said very insignificant.

Polls taken this year on when the Fed will act have steadily pushed back the initial move. It's now December after the Fed decline to act last month, according to a September 22 Reuters poll of economists. But that may be deferred again - they only assigned a 60 percent probability of its happening then.

Market pricing has already deferred a likely Fed tightening well into next year.

"The dollar may still benefit from interest rate differentials, but perhaps by not as much as many were expecting," said Jane Foley, senior FX strategist at Rabobank. After a year-long surge from May 2014, the dollar's rally lost momentum. The poll suggested any gains in the coming year would be less impressive - despite expectations the European Central Bank will loosen its policy further.

Currently trading around $1.12, one euro will get you the same in a month, $1.09 in three months and $1.05 in a year, slightly less than predicted in a September poll.

In a similar vein, the Bank of Japan is expected to ease its already ultra-loose policy again, possibly as soon as the end of this month, keeping the yen weak.

The Japanese currency is expected to weaken to 121 per dollar in a month and to 123 in three months. A year from now, you will need 126 yen to get one dollar.

Against a basket of currencies, the US dollar will make little inroads. The dollar index, currently around 95.5, will only shift up to 97.4 by the end of the year.

Sterling, however, will hold its ground against the US currency, largely because the Bank of England is widely expected to be hot on the heels of the Fed in raising borrowing costs from record lows.

One pound will be worth $1.52 in a month and then strengthen slightly to $1.53 in three months, where it will hold until next October.

However, sterling will fare much better against the euro. One euro will be worth 73.2 pence in a month, 71.4p in three and just 69.6p in a year.

"There is still potential room for sterling to appreciate against the euro," Foley said. "The factors that have pushed back expectations for a BoE hike are the same factors that are pushing expectations of more quantitative easing from the ECB."

Copyright Reuters, 2015