© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Japanese Yen and U.S. dollar banknotes are seen in this illustration taken March 10, 2023. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration
By Joice Alves
LONDON (Reuters) – The Australian dollar fell sharply on Tuesday after the Reserve Bank of Australia left cash rates unchanged, while the yen fell to a three-week low as the Bank of Japan’s steps last week to tweak its yield curve control (YCC) policy continued to weigh on the currency.
The Australian dollar was set for its sharpest daily drop in a month after the central bank on Tuesday held interest rates at 4.1% for a second month, saying past hikes were cooling demand but some more tightening might be needed to curb inflation.
The fell 1.4% to $0.6626, wiping out the 0.87% gains it clocked in July and set for its sharpest daily drop since March.
Matt Simpson, senior analyst at City Index, said the Aussie move suggested not everyone was positioned for the RBA’s hold, noting that weaker-than-expected data from China also weighed on the risk-sensitive currency.
“I think it was right that the RBA held today, given trimmed mean inflation and unemployment matched the RBA’s forecasts. And it may have sent a confusing message had they hiked following softer inflation and retail trade data.”
The yen last fetched 142.97, down 0.5% to its lowest in three weeks.
The Asian currency has been on a wild ride since Friday, when the BOJ began what may become a slow shift away from decades of massive monetary stimulus, saying it would offer to buy 10-year Japanese government bonds at 1.0% in fixed-rate operations instead of the previous rate of 0.5%.
“Markets could test just how ‘flexible’ the BOJ will be in the months ahead,” said Carlos Casanova, senior Asia economist at UBP in Hong Kong, adding the subtle changes suggested the BOJ may be gearing up to changing the YCC target in 2023.
DOLLAR FRESH HIGHS
The dollar climbed to a fresh three-week high ahead of a job data release that could give clues on whether the Federal Reserve is set to stick to its monetary tightening plan, while weak economic data in Asia raised global growth fears boosting the safe-haven dollar.
On Monday, Fed survey data showed U.S. banks reported tighter credit standards and weaker loan demand from both businesses and consumers in the second quarter, adding to evidence that rising rates are having an impact on the economy.
But against a basket of currencies, the dollar rose 0.3% to a three-week peak of 102.19 amid signs of weakness in Asian economic activity.
Private surveys showed that Asia’s factory activity shrank in July, as the region’s fragile recovery takes a hit from slowing global growth and weakness in China’s economy.
China’s Caixin/S&P Global manufacturing purchasing managers’ index (PMI) missed analysts forecasts and showed the first decline in activity since April. [CNY/]
The euro eased 0.2% to $1.0975, not too far from an almost three-week low touched on Friday.
Markets are now pricing in a pause in rate hikes by the European Central Bank as euro zone inflation fell further in July, and the bloc returned to growth in the second quarter of 2023 with a greater-than-expected expansion.
“Something needs to happen to boost confidence in another 25bp ECB hike, or the positioning will drag euro/dollar down. Unless, of course, the U.S. data this week are bad enough to shift the conversation back to when the Fed will start easing,” said Kit Juckes, chief global FX strategist at Societe Generale (OTC:), in a note to clients.
Sterling fell 0.4% to $1.2785 following more signs of weakness in the UK economy.
Money markets now see a 60% probability that the Bank of England will hike rates by 25 basis points on Thursday. [IRPR]