LONDON: The dollar held gains against a basket of its peers on Thursday as a more orderly rise in US Treasury yields lent support before a speech by Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell that may determine the trend for global bond markets and currencies.
The dollar also hit a five-month high against the Swiss franc and a seven-month high to the Japanese yen while holding on to gains against most currencies as a renewed sense of calm in the Treasury market underpinned sentiment.
Investors are anxious to see if Powell expresses concern about a recent volatile sell-off in Treasuries and if there is any change in his assessment of the economy before the Fed’s next meeting, ending March 17.
The dollar may extend gains versus the yen as long as Treasury yields rise at a measured pace, but it is likely to fall against currencies of major commodities exporters as more signs point to a rebound in global growth.
“Comments that he (Powell) is monitoring events in the Treasury market might be enough to calm things down, encourage a return to high-yield FX and a softer dollar, but no such concern would suggest the Fed is happy for US Treasury yields to ‘find the right level’ - as our bond strategy colleagues say - potentially triggering another spike in US yields and more dollar short-covering,” ING said in a note to clients.
The dollar rose to 107.36 yen, its highest since July last year.
The US currency bought 0.92540 Swiss franc, its highest against the safe-haven currency since September 28.
“We would caution against chasing CHF (franc) weakness against the USD (dollar) and EUR (euro) at current levels and see potential for a short squeeze,” said Dan Tobon, strategist at CitiFX.
“Current levels on EURCHF are attractive for tactical shorts, though an acceleration higher in US yields remains a risk.”
The British pound steadied at $1.3942, while the euro traded at $1.2043, down 0.15% on the day.
The benchmark 10-year Treasury yield backed down to 1.4533%, after rising earlier to 1.4567%.
A chaotic sell-off in Treasuries from the start of the year on concerns that massive government spending to support the global economy may drive up inflation culminated in 10-year yields rising to a one-year high of 1.6140% last week.
The move was so rapid that global stock markets tumbled and the dollar dropped against most currencies, but it has since regained its composure as disorderly selling of Treasuries ebbed, for now at least.
The dollar index stood at 91.158 against a basket of six major currencies, holding on to a 0.32% gain from Wednesday.
The Australian dollar, which is often traded as a proxy for global growth because it is closely tied to commodities, recovered from early losses and rose to $0.7776, up 0.1% on the day.
The New Zealand dollar, another closely watched commodity currency, weakened 0.1% to $0.7239.
Traders said the Aussie and the kiwi are likely to continue rising because both economies are rebounding from the COVID-19 pandemic and they will both benefit from an acceleration in global trade.
In the cryptocurrency market, bitcoin fell 1.8% to $49,414. Rival digital currency ether fell 0.4% to $1,561.
Bitcoin has surged 78% so far this year as it gains more acceptance in the financial services industry, but the US financial regulator is likely to start working on guidelines for digital assets, which could increase scrutiny of cryptocurrencies.