Dollar hits 9-year high—but is market ‘complacent’?

The U.S. dollar hit its highest level since March 2006 against a basket of currencies on Friday, continuing last year's rally, as the euro fell on speculation about imminent monetary easing tactics.

The dollar index, which measures the greenback against other currencies, was trading around 90.94 at 11:50 a.m. ET—a 9-year high.

It hit a 4-1/2-year high against the euro after the head of the European Central Bank (ECB) further fueled expectations of broader monetary stimulus measures, such as U.S. Federal Reserve style bond-buying program. The dollar also reached a 7-1/2-year high of around of around 120.59 Japanese yen.

Euros and dollars
Joseph De Sciose | Getty Images

The dollar's upturn on Friday continued a rally that started last July and saw the dollar gain 12 percent against a basket of currencies across 2014.

"Demand for the dollar goes beyond just the weakness of the euro," said Kit Juckes, global strategist at Societe Generale, in a research note on Friday. "The softness of the Chinese economy, the weakness of oil prices and their impact on a range of currencies, the news earlier this week of flows out of emerging market funds, all add up to a stronger dollar."

Dennis Gartman, author of The Gartman Letter, forecast the winning streak would continue throughout 2015, citing the relative strength of the U.S. economy, emerging market weakness and diverging monetary policy between the Fed and other major central banks like the ECB and the Bank of Japan.

"I think the bull market in the dollar has really only just begun. Of course there'll be corrections along the way," Gartman told CNBC on Wednesday.

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'King dollar'?

However, Boris Schlossberg, managing director of foreign exchange strategy at BK Asset Management, said the market was "incredibly complacent" in its "king dollar thesis."

"I think the story with the dollar could be very uneven this year," he told CNBC Wednesday. "For example, a very steep selloff in equities could create a big sharp sell-off in dollar-yen, but euro-dollar could still continue to the downside, especially if the ECB goes ahead with QE."

Commenting on trades to watch, Juckes said: "If a stronger dollar, soft oil prices, slowing Chinese growth and eventual Fed tightening are the market themes to start 2015, long USD/CAD may be the first trade for the year too."

On Friday, ECB President Mario Draghi told German newspaper Handelsblatt that the risk of the central bank failing its mandate to preserve price stability had worsened over the last six months, Reuters reported.

The markets took this as yet another hint that a quantitative easing program could be imminent. The single currency was at $1.201 at 11:50 a.m., down 0.7 percent on the day.

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"We think the odds now strongly favor the ECB engaging in quantitative easing in the first quarter of 2015, with the odds just about favoring a move in January rather than March," said Howard Archer, chief European economist at IHS Global Insight, in a research note on Friday.