© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The European Central Bank (ECB) presents the new 50 euro note at the bank’s headquarters in Frankfurt, Germany, July 5, 2016. REUTERS/Ralph Orlowski/File Photo
By Tom Westbrook
SYDNEY (Reuters) – The yuan scaled a five-month high in Asia on Tuesday as traders welcomed dialogue between the U.S. and Chinese presidents, while the dollar held near a 16-month peak against the euro ahead of U.S. retail sales data that could influence the outlook for interest rates.
Calling U.S. President Joe Biden an “old friend,” his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping said their countries must increase communication and cooperation – remarks that had markets hoping cordiality could lead to a reduction in tariffs.
Support for riskier currencies ebbed as further readouts from both sides showed plenty of differences remain in ties between the world’s two biggest economies, but the yuan was kept supported at 6.3728 per dollar.
It had climbed as far as 6.3666 per dollar. [CNY/]
The euro, at $1.1377, lacks major support until around $1.12 and was pounded on Monday amid concerns about COVID-19 outbreaks on the continent and insistence from Europe’s central bank chief that she won’t be hurried in to rate hikes.
The risk-sensitive Australian and New Zealand dollars made modest gains but retraced them as traders looked ahead to the U.S. retail sales data due at 1300 GMT. The yen steadied at 114.15 per dollar and the Aussie was last flat at $0.7344.
“U.S. retail sales today is the big watch to gauge if demand is resilient amid inflation,” said Vishnu Varathan, head of economics at Mizuho Bank in Singapore. If it is, that could mean more pressure on the Federal Reserve to hike rates sooner.
Another factor keeping moves small in the Asia session was talk that Biden might soon announce his pick for Federal Reserve chair – probably either a reappointment of Jerome Powell or a promotion for Fed Governor Lael Brainard.
“If Powell is chosen, we expect no impact on the dollar. But if Brainard is chosen, we expect a short term fall in U.S. interest rates and the dollar because it is widely believed a Brainard-led FOMC would be more dovish than otherwise,” said Commonwealth Bank of Australia (OTC:CMWAY) analyst Carol Kong.
Earlier in the Asia session, Reserve Bank of Australia head Philip Lowe again pushed back on markets pricing in RBA rate hikes as soon as 2022, but it had little immediate effect on traders who expect 100 basis points of tightening by early 2023.
The New Zealand dollar was steady at $0.7035 and in a waiting mode before next week’s Reserve Bank of New Zealand meeting where markets have priced in a 25 basis point rate hike and a 40% chance that it will be 50 basis points.
Sterling was steady at $1.3419.
Euro crosses were also languishing after Monday’s insistence from European Central Bank chief Christine Lagarde that hikes could do more harm than good at this point – a dovish contrast with hawkish hints being dropped by other central bankers.
The common currency’s tumble to $1.1356 on Monday propelled the U.S. dollar index to its 2021 high of 95.595 as well as hitting the euro pretty broadly.
The gulf in tone across the Channel sent the euro on its steepest slide against the pound in six months on Monday as Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey told a parliamentary committee he was “very uneasy” about inflation.
Canada’s central bank chief Tiff Macklem was even more forthright and said “we are getting closer” to hikes in an opinion piece, driving the Canadian dollar to a four-and-a-half year high against the euro.
Bitcoin was down 5% and testing support at $60,600.
Currency bid prices at 0633 GMT
Description RIC Last U.S. Close Pct Change YTD Pct High Bid Low Bid
$1.1375 $1.1367 +0.07% -6.90% +1.1386 +1.1360
114.1900 114.1850 +0.01% +10.56% +114.3050 +114.1350
129.88 129.74 +0.11% +2.33% +130.0700 +129.7000
0.9250 0.9246 +0.02% +4.53% +0.9257 +0.9238
1.3422 1.3415 +0.05% -1.76% +1.3437 +1.3412
1.2518 1.2511 +0.06% -1.70% +1.2522 +1.2493
0.7338 0.7348 -0.13% -4.61% +0.7368 +0.7336
Dollar/Dollar 0.7033 0.7045 -0.16% -2.06% +0.7063 +0.7033
Tokyo Forex market info from BOJ