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SINGAPORE: The dollar was steady on Monday after data last week showing US inflation remained sticky cast doubts on when the Federal Reserve would start its easing cycle, while the yen remained rooted near the psychologically key 150 per dollar level.

The yen has hovered around 150 level in the last few days, prompting officials to comment on the currency moves and keeping markets on alert to a possible intervention by Japanese authorities.

In early trade on Monday, the yen strengthened 0.20% to 149.94 per dollar but remains down 6% for the year, while against the euro yen hovered around three-month lows of 161.925.

Ministry of Finance officials “took the first step onto the intervention escalation ladder by warning against rapid moves and threatening action even outside of its time zone,” said Marc Chandler, chief market strategist at Bannockburn Global Forex.

Chandler said there appears little on the charts to deter a test to last year’s low of 152 per dollar level.

US markets are closed on Monday for the Presidents’ Day holiday, with volumes likely to be low through the day.

The dollar index, which measures the US currency against six major rivals, started the week down 0.058% at 104.14 after clocking five straight weeks of gains. The index is up 3% this year.

Dollar steady as traders weigh economic data, yen fragile

Data last week showed both US producer prices and consumer prices increased more than expected in January, with the apparent stickiness in inflation raising the prospects of a delayed start to the Fed’s rate cuts.

Traders are now betting that June would be the starting point of the easing cycle compared with March at the beginning of the year, CME FedWatcg tool showed.

Markets have also taken out two quarter point rate cuts for this year to imply less than 100 basis points of easing, compared with 150 basis point of cuts expected at the start of the year.

Citi strategists said data last week confirmed that an economic soft landing has not been achieved and “make us more convinced that one will not be.”

Declining retail sales, and the continuing rise in jobless claims all point to a softening economy, they said in a note.

“And higher inflation makes it even more difficult for the Fed to respond by lowering rates, further raising the probability of a recession.”

Investor focus this week will be on the minutes of the Fed meeting from last month, scheduled for release on Wednesday. Several Fed officials including Christopher Waller and Raphael Bostic are also due to speak this week.

Christopher Wong, currency strategist at OCBC, said the bulk of the hawkish adjustment in the market may have taken place and expects the dollar to consolidate in the absence of fresh catalysts.

Elsewhere, the euro was up 0.12% at $1.0787, while the sterling was last at $1.2624, up 0.21% on the day.

The pound got a lift on Friday after data showed UK retail sales grew at their fastest pace in nearly three years in January, although that did little to shift expectations around the Bank of England’s monetary policy outlook.

Markets still anticipate 64 basis points of cuts from the BOE this year.

The Australian dollar rose 0.29% to $0.655, while the New Zealand dollar advanced 0.34% to $0.614.

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