TOKYO (Reuters) – The dollar eased on Thursday after Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell set the stage for a rate cut later this month, vowing to “act as appropriate” to ensure the world’s biggest economy will be able to sustain a decade-long expansion.
In testimony to Congress, Powell pointed to “broad” global weakness that was clouding the U.S. economic outlook amid uncertainty about the fallout from the Trump administration’s trade conflict with China and other nations.
“Chairman Powell sounded dovish on most dimensions. This is slightly surprising given benign trade developments following last month’s G20 meeting and the recent rebound in nonfarm payrolls,” said Michael Swell, co-head of global fixed income portfolio management at Goldman Sachs Asset Management.
“Overall, his comments around slowing growth against a backdrop of muted inflation and elevated uncertainties is consistent with ‘insurance rate cuts’ this year.”
Graphic: World FX rates in 2019 tmsnrt.rs/2egbfVh
Adding to a generally dovish tone in his testimony, the minutes from the Fed’s previous policy meeting showed many policymakers thought more stimulus would be needed soon, reviving speculation of an aggressive rate cut.
The euro rose 0.2% in Asia to $1.1274, extending gains after a 0.4% rise the previous day.
The dollar dipped 0.5% to 107.96 yen, extending its slide from a six-week high of 108.99 set on Wednesday before Powell’s testimony.
The dollar’s index against six major currencies slipped 0.2% to 96.877, extending its losses into a second session after Powell’s first day of testimony, and turned negative on the week.
Money market futures <0#FF:> have jumped to price in around a 30% chance that the Fed will cut rates by 50 basis points at its next policy review on July 30-31 – a scenario that had been priced out after Friday’s strong U.S. jobs data.
A 25-basis-point cut is already fully factored in.
“A rate cut in July is completely sealed now. But on the other hand, Powell dropped little hint on what he would do after that, as he sounded quite optimistic on the economy,” said Kyosuke Suzuki, director of forex at Societe Generale.
“That uncertainty, I think, will most likely keep the dollar in fairly tight ranges in coming weeks,” he said.
Elsewhere, the British pound also bounced off from six-month lows to trade at $1.2529.
But it is still down on the week as the British currency has been dogged by Britain’s economic gloom and a fast-approaching Brexit deadline.
A raft of dismal UK data and the risk of crashing out of the European Union without agreeing transitional trade arrangements have forced the Bank of England to change its upbeat assessment of the economy.
In contrast, the Canadian dollar moved closer to last week’s eight-month high, as the Bank of Canada showed no sign that it would match potential interest rate cuts from the Fed, making clear it had no intention of easing monetary policy.
The Canadian dollar stood at C$1.3052 per U.S. dollar, not far from C$1.3038 touched a week ago.
In the crypto market, bitcoin shed as much as 8.5% on Wednesday after Fed Chairman Powell made strong comments against Facebook’s digital currency plans. Bitcoin was last down 3.1% at 11,722.21 on Thursday.
Powell said Facebook’s Libra “cannot go forward” until many serious concerns were addressed, comments that pressured the project and dented the price of the original cryptocurrency bitcoin.
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