Dollar holds near one-month high ahead of Fed minutes

Mohamed Abd El Ghany | Reuters

The U.S. dollar held near a one-month high on Wednesday amid heightened trade tensions between the United States and China and ahead of the release of Federal Reserve meeting minutes which may provide more clues on why the central bank stood pat on interest rates earlier this month.

At its May 1 meeting, the Federal Open Market Committee kept interest rates steady and signaled little appetite to adjust them any time soon, taking note of strong jobs growth.

Still, the minutes may not add much to what the market has learned from a slew of comments from Fed members this week.

In Hong Kong earlier Wednesday, James Bullard, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, said further weakness in inflation could prompt the Fed to cut rates, even if economic growth maintains its momentum.

Bullard's comments echoed those made by other Fed members this week, including the Chicago Fed's Charles Evans, also a voting member of the FOMC.

"We expect the FOMC minutes from the May meeting to be rather uneventful for the foreign exchange market, given the deluge of Fed speak investors have received in recent sessions," said Stephen Gallo, European head of foreign exchange strategy at BMO Capital Markets.

The minutes will not reflect a further ratcheting up of U.S.-China trade tension since the meeting, which may also limit its impact on markets.

Officials in the world's two largest economies dug in their heels as tensions intensified since Washington last week blacklisted China's Huawei Technologies Co Ltd.

China must prepare for difficult times as the international situation is increasingly complex, President Xi Jinping said in comments on Wednesday.

"Everyone is digging in for a long fight," Brown Brothers Harriman strategists said in a note.

Against a basket of rivals, the dollar was steady at 98.043 and just shy of a one-month high of 98.134.

While investors in risky assets heaved a sigh of relief after the United States eased trade restrictions on Huawei, the lack of a significant breakthrough has kept them on edge.

Stronger safe-haven assets, namely the Japanese and Swiss franc up 0.12% and 0.23% respectively, indicated lingering skepticism.

Sterling was the only notable loser going into the North American session down 0.57% to its lowest since Jan.4, and last at $1.263.

Political uncertainty in Britain deepened as Prime Minister Theresa May's final attempt to seal a Brexit deal failed to win over opposition lawmakers and many in her own party.

Elsewhere, the euro was steady at $1.116 before a speech by European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi in Frankfurt.