Euro strengthens after ECB dashes dovish hopes

Japanese yen
John Phillips | Digital Editor for

The euro jumped half a percent on Thursday after the European Central Bank refrained from hinting at an interest rate cut, merely pushing back the timing of its first post-crisis rate hike.

The euro rose because investors had expected an even more dovish signal from the ECB and for the central bank to acknowledge weakness in economic growth.

"One of the more dovish outcomes we envisaged did not materialize. The governing council extended its forward guidance timing, but also under-delivered on the TLTRO front," TS securities told clients.

The ECB said it would lend to banks at a rate just 10 basis points above its minus 0.4% deposit rate in a new targeted longer-term refinancing operation, or TLTRO.

Money market futures are now pricing in a 45% chance of a 10 basis point euro zone rate cut by the end of year versus 75% before the ECB statement.

The euro has strengthened recently on the back of dollar weakness caused by rising bets on a U.S. interest rate cut.

The single currency was 0.5% higher at $1.1273 after brushing a 1-1/2-month high of $1.1307 earlier this week.

The ECB is trying to give the ailing euro zone a boost but has not yet signaled it will take more policy action later this year as an escalating global trade war unravels the benefits of years of monetary stimulus.

In a speech at 1430 GMT, ECB President Mario Draghi is expected to maintain guidance about the possibility of more stimulus.

"Draghi would have to sound very concerned about the growth and inflation outlook to cause a reaction in the euro," said Antje Praefcke, an analyst at Commerzbank, wrote in a note to clients.

Recession fears are sweeping across the world and central banks have in recent weeks cut rates in what could signal the start of a fresh global monetary easing cycle.

Japan's yen approached a five-month high on Thursday after a lack of progress in U.S.-Mexico trade talks hurt risk sentiment and drove investors towards safe-haven currencies.

The Japanese yen has been the main beneficiary from a shift towards assets investors deem safer.

It rose as much as 0.3% to 108.07 yen per dollar, close to its strongest level since Jan. 10, after negotiations in Washington on Wednesday aimed at averting U.S. tariffs on Mexican goods showed little sign of progress.

U.S. President Donald Trump unexpectedly told Mexico last week to take a harder line on curbing illegal immigration or face 5% tariffs on all its exports to the United States.

The Mexican peso, already saddled with trade concerns, took a hit after credit ratings agency Fitch downgraded its sovereign debt rating on Wednesday by a notch from BBB+ to BBB, just two notches above junk status.

The dollar index against a basket of six major currencies stooped to a two-month low of 96.749 midweek as benchmark U.S. yields declined sharply this week to 21-month lows on investor risk aversion and heightened prospects of the Federal Reserve cutting interest rates.