Dollar gains on U.S. election caution, surging COVID-19 cases

A picture taken on April 18, 2007 in London shows a woman holding Euro and US dollar notes.
Bertrand Langlois | AFP via Getty Images

The safe-haven dollar rose to a four-week high on Friday, moving within narrow ranges, amid jitters ahead of next week's U.S. presidential election and the continued surge in global coronavirus cases that has forced lockdowns in parts of Europe.

The greenback posted its largest weekly percentage gain since late September, with investors scooping up dollars due to fears of a contested election and the economic impact of renewed lockdowns in France, Germany and some regions of Spain.

The United States recorded its 9 millionth case on Friday, nearly 3% of the population, with almost 229,000 dead since the outbreak of the pandemic early this year, according to a Reuters tally of publicly reported data.

Friday's economic data, meanwhile, which showed U.S. consumer spending exceeding forecasts, had little impact on the currency market.

In afternoon trading, the dollar index rose 0.2% to 94.035. On the week, the index was up 1.4%, its best weekly performance in more than a month.

"This could well be election jitters although we have had the election on our calendar for a long time," said Greg Anderson, global head of foreign exchange strategy at BMO Capital Markets in New York. "It's not as if the probability outcomes have shifted very much this week, but it is possible that some people saved position squaring up to the last moment. That has pulled euro/dollar lower a little bit," he added.

The euro fell 0.3% to $1.1643, after sliding to a four-week low of $1.1640. The euro remains pressured overall after the European Central Bank on Thursday flagged further monetary easing in December.
FX volatility gauges for euro-dollar and most other major currencies were elevated, with that in the single currency at more than 10% on Friday.

Ranko Berich, head of market analysis, at Monex Europe said a win by Democratic candidate Joe Biden over President Donald Trump could improve the outlook for U.S. macroeconomic growth due to better pandemic management, and "would be mildly positive for the dollar against G10 currencies."

The greenback was little changed against the yen at 104.66 yen, after rallying overnight from a five-week trough as it benefited from a rebound in U.S. Treasury yields and broad dollar buying.

Some commodity currencies, meanwhile, took another spill on Friday, capping what for some was set to be their worst week since the March COVID-19 collapse.

With Brent already down 10% for the week and still on the slide, traders seemed ready to sell anything linked to crude.

Russia's rouble dropped 0.5% to near 80 per dollar on course for a 4% weekly drop.

Norway's crown had managed to steady at 9.57 per dollar but only after a near 3.5% weekly skid, while Canada's dollar was facing its worst week since April.

Against the Chinese yuan in the offshore market, the dollar fell 0.2% to 6.6945 yuan.