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Dollar gains as markets await US inflation data

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The dollar edged higher against the euro and other major currencies on Monday as investors await data on US inflation and retail sales this week for clues on when the Federal Reserve may begin widely anticipated interest rate cuts.

The dollar index, a measure of the US currency against six others, rose 0.25% to 104.23 as the market expects the consumer price index (CPI) for January – due to be released on Tuesday – to give the Fed further confidence that inflation is slowing towards its 2% target.

Retail sales for last month on Thursday are expected to slip a bit to also confirm decelerating inflation and cap rising Treasury yields and the dollar’s recent strength, said Marc Chandler, chief market strategist at Bannockburn Global Forex in New York.

“Soft CPI and soft retail sales should help boost the Fed’s confidence that inflation is coming back to its target,” he said, adding that Fed Chair Jerome Powell was using the data to judge the outlook on inflation. “This week’s data should help boost his confidence.”

The euro fell 0.22% to $1.07595 as a holiday in most major Asian markets kept markets relatively subdued at the start of what could prove a busy week.

The euro fell from a 10-day high touched in early trading after last week saw a small rebound following steady declines so far in 2024.

A reading of the euro zone’s economic growth in the fourth quarter on Wednesday could provide fresh direction.

Changing expectations of when and how quickly central banks will cut interest rates as inflation falls are a significant driver of currency markets at present.

Strong jobs data this month has largely taken a Fed rate cut in March off the table, with markets seeing a move in May as somewhat more likely.

The US data also caused market pricing for the first European Central Bank (ECB) rate cuts to be pushed back, even though economic data in Europe has been weaker.

That lack of divergence between the Fed and other central banks, including the ECB, has kept the dollar largely range bound and prevented it moving significantly higher, said Simon Harvey, head of FX analysis for Monex Europe.

“In the interim we keep floating around, and US CPI will determine how the dollar trades within those ranges,” he said.

Analysts expect US core CPI to come in at 0.3% month-on-month in January, but a still elevated 3.7% year-over-year, according to a Reuters poll of economists.

Elsewhere, there is plenty of data due this week in Britain, including inflation and GDP numbers with the former, on Wednesday, similarly likely to influence opinion on when the Bank of England will start to cut interest rates – it is currently seen lagging the Fed and ECB.

Sterling was last trading at $1.2613, down 0.10% on the day.

Markets are also keeping an eye on the highly rate-sensitive yen, which strengthened sharply late last year as markets priced in early US rate cuts, but has since weakened as that timing got pushed back.

Japanese authorities intervened in late 2022 to prop up the yen, which weakened to as much as 151.94 per dollar.

Japanese yen weakened 0.07% at 149.43 per dollar.

Bitcoin rose 4.43% to $49,649.00, its highest since December 2021.

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