Dollar flat as rally fizzles ahead of Easter weekend

Key Points
  • The U.S. dollar headed for its fifth consecutive quarter of losses.
  • The euro held steady in trading after data showing German unemployment falling more than expected pointed to continued strength in the euro zone's largest economy.
Dan Kitwood | Getty Images

The dollar was little changed against a basket of currencies on Thursday, as its rebound from a five-week low, touched earlier this week, ran out of steam and trading activity slowed down ahead of the long Easter weekend in many of the world's largest trading centers.

The dollar index, which measures the greenback against a basket of six other major currencies, traded up 0.01 at 90.07. The index was down about 2 percent for the quarter, on pace for its fifth straight quarter of declines.

"It's pretty quiet trading. We are coming into the tail end of a shortened week for most people," said Shaun Osborne, chief FX strategist at Scotiabank in Toronto.

"I think a lot of the month-end and quarter-end flows probably went through earlier this week just because everyone was looking at today and thinking it was likely to be a thinly traded day," Osborne added.

The dollar index rose to a one-week high on Wednesday, helped by end-of-month and end-of-quarter re-balancing of portfolios by global asset and fund managers, which tends to be dollar-supportive.

"A lot of the strength we have seen this week is likely to unwind to a large extent next week and beyond," Osborne said.

Trading on Friday and Monday are likely to be subdued, said Vassili Serebriakov, currency strategist at Credit Agricole in New York. "It's the usual Easter effect," he said.

Data on Thursday showed U.S. consumer spending rose marginally for a second straight month in February as households boosted savings, the latest indication that the economy lost momentum in the first quarter. But the economy's fundamentals remained strong, with other data on Thursday showing the number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits dropping to more than a 45-year low last week.

"I don't think there was any kind of particular surprise," said Serebriakov.

"That's why we didn't see a lot of moves in either rates or forex," Serebriakov added. "We are also a bit more sensitive to what's going on in equities and on the trade front as well, so maybe the bar for data surprises is a little bit higher."

The dollar's run higher with the Fed has finished: Strategist

Global markets were shaken this month when U.S. President Donald Trump moved to impose tariffs on Chinese goods, and Beijing threatened similar measures. But fears of a full-blown trade war have eased on hopes that negotiations can bring a compromise.

The greenback was 0.42 percent lower against the , after rising 1.4 percent over the previous two sessions.

The euro edged higher against the dollar after data showing German unemployment falling more than expected pointed to continued strength in the euro zone's largest economy, but failed to hold gains and was trading down 0.05 percent on the day.

Sterling slipped on Thursday as economic data failed to impress, though the currency remains on course for its best quarter against the dollar since 2015.

The rose against its U.S. counterpart as firmer stock prices offset data showing the domestic economy unexpectedly contracted at the start of the year.