Canadian, Aussie dollars fall on bets on dovish central bank stances

Dollar bills with Euro notes
Dan Kitwood | Getty Images

The Canadian and Australian dollar sank to two-month lows on Wednesday as traders scaled back holdings on expectations policy-makers would leave interest rates alone in the foreseeable future or even lower them to counter their softening economies.

The Bank of Canada said on Wednesday there was "increased uncertainty" about the timing of future rate hikes as it held interest rates steady as expected. Australia said its economy grew at a 0.2 percent pace in the fourth quarter of 2018, falling short of the 0.3 percent forecast by analysts polled by Reuters.

The dour GDP figure came a day after the Reserve Bank of Australia's upbeat outlook failed to dispel bets it would have to lower rates eventually.

"The moves are about the dovishness of their central banks and deterioration in their domestic data," said Ben Randol, senior FX strategist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch in New York.

The Canadian dollar fell to C$1.3457 after the release of the BOC's latest policy statement, its lowest against its U.S. counterpart since Jan. 4. At 3:20 p.m. EST, it was 0.55 percent weaker at C$1.3424.

The Aussie dollar was $0.7028, down 0.76 percent on the day after hitting $0.7021, a two-month low.

The greenback held steady against most major currencies after the Federal Reserve released its latest Beige Book, which showed tariffs and a record 35-day partial government shutdown were drags on the U.S. economy in early 2019.

While the Fed took a dovish turn of its own in late January, the dollar has been supported by the relative wide differentials between U.S. bond yields and the yields of most developed economies, analysts said.

For example, benchmark 10-year Treasury yields were about 256 basis points higher than those on 10-year German Bunds.

Speculators have remained bullish on the greenback in view of the continuing uncertainties over Brexit and trade negotiations between China and the United States.

An index that tracks the dollar against a basket of currencies was little changed on the day at 96.85, just below a two-week high reached on Tuesday.

The euro bounced back above $1.13 after hitting a two-week low at $1.12855 earlier Wednesday. It was a marginally lower on the day at 126.42 yen.

Analysts expected little surprises from the European Central Bank meeting on Thursday amid speculation that it is getting ready to make new cheap loans to struggling banks through its Targeted Long-Term Refinancing Operations (TLTROs).

"The euro has effectively priced in no change in their (ECB's) inflation outlook and no change in their forward guidance," said Paresh Upadhyaya, director of currency strategy at Amundi Pioneer Investments in Boston.