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Bottom falling out of US dollar: Drops to near 2-year low vs the euro, 2017 loss now 10%

  • The dollar hit a nearly two-year low against the euro, after the European Central Bank signaled it could start discussing in the fall a plan to pare back its bond purchases.
  • The dollar was also under pressure because of concerns the Russian investigation could slow down tax reform and other pro-growth policies of the Trump administration.
  • One strategist said there's no longer any resistance against dollar weakening.

The dollar is crumpling under pressure, and there doesn't appear to be much to stop it.

European Central Bank President Mario Draghi was the latest catalyst, sending the euro higher with comments that the ECB would discuss when to start paring back its bond purchases in the fall.

While some viewed the central bank president as a bit vague, his words still drove the euro to a near two-year high against the dollar.

"I think this [move] is three-quarters to maybe a bit more Draghi and the market assuming, despite the exact words Draghi used, that there still is a tapering decision coming in September," said Marc Chandler, head of fixed income strategy at Brown Brothers Harriman.

The euro traded through $1.1615, last year's high, to about $1.163, a gain of 1.1 percent on the day. Chandler said there was strong options buying, pointing to market expectations of a much stronger euro at $1.20. The dollar index fell to an 11-month low and was at 94.27 in late trading, a decline of 1.5 percent in the last week.

The greenback is now down 10 percent this year against the euro.

The dollar's decline Thursday is a continuation of a weakening that started last week after Fed Chair Janet Yellen voiced concerns about low inflation and talked about a lower than historic neutral rate. That drove down the dollar, and bond yields moved lower, as expectations for another Fed interest-rate hike this year faded.

In addition, the investigation into the Trump campaign's ties to Russia took a new twist last week when emails provided by Donald Trump Jr. showed that he was informed of Russian government support for his father's campaign.

Since then, the Senate has also failed to push through a new health-care bill and the efforts continue to look tenuous. Regardless, House Speaker Paul Ryan Thursday said that the intention is that tax reform will be pushed ahead. If that's the case, it would be expected to be dollar positive.

The dollar's latest move down was a quick reversal of a breakout that was underway early last week. Draghi in late June started a sell-off in global bonds and a bounce in the dollar with hawkish comments about a euro zone recovery.

Other central bankers also sounded hawkish, and a major shift was underway in yields and currencies, with markets believing the Fed would lead the way. But that reversed with Yellen's comments and a batch of weak inflation and retail sales data in the U.S. last week.

Robert Sinche, chief global strategist at Amherst Pierpont, said the dollar got another kick lower Thursday on news reports that special counsel Robert Mueller expanded his Russia probe to Trump's businesses.

"That signaled to people [that] there's nothing happening in the U.S. anytime soon, and they took it out on the dollar," said Sinche. There has been concern that the Russian probe would be a distraction from efforts to push through President Donald Trump's pro-growth policies, such as tax reform.

"There's no resistance to a lower dollar," Chandler said. Just last week, Chandler and others had believed the dollar could finally be getting ready to move higher, as sovereign yields rose on the view that global central banks were getting ready to tighten.

But the Fed's comments discouraged that view, and the Fed is being written off as a non-factor even as it is set to meet next week.

"Next week's FOMC meeting is largely a nonevent. It's all building up for September for the ECB and September for the Fed," Chandler said. In September, the Fed is expected to announce that it will begin paring back on its bond-buying program. Even though it ended quantitative easing long ago, one vestige of the program continues, as the Fed replaces the mortgage and Treasury securities it holds on its $4.5 trillion balance sheet, as they expire.

"It's not so much the stuff in the U.S. is bad, it's just that nothing good is coming from it," said Chandler.

WATCH: Cashing in on dollar dip