Currencies

Dollar dips as soft U.S. inflation weighs; Fed in focus next week

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A 1 dollar bill with various other dollar bills.
Igor Golovniov | SOPA Images | LightRocket via Getty Images

The dollar slipped against major currencies on Wednesday after softer-than-expected U.S. inflation data released on Tuesday eased short-term expectations about tapering of asset purchases from the Federal Reserve.

The dollar index last stood at 92.546, down about 0.1% on the day from Tuesday, when it dropped following the inflation data but recovered on haven demand as stocks slid on Wall Street.

But the greenback trimmed losses after data showing import prices fell unexpectedly in August and a higher-than-expected reading for the New York Fed's business survey.

These reports offset data showing U.S. manufacturing output slowed in August, rising 0.2% from a 1.6% increase the previous month.

"The reality is that there is no guidance other than the obvious: poor economic indicators mean the recovery from the pandemic has slowed down more than expected by Delta," said Juan Perez, FX strategist and trader at Tempus Inc in Washington.

"The buck in the midst of all this will still have room for gains and spikes as doom and gloom play a role in diminished risk-appetite, but idiosyncratic improvements in the U.K., as we saw with CPI, and other regions could eventually start weakening the dollar more consistently," he added.

Wednesday's data showed Britain's inflation rate hit its highest in almost a decade last month after a record jump that was largely fuelled by a rebound in restaurant prices.

The dollar index, a measure of the greenback's value against six major currencies, has traded between 92.3 and 92.9 over the past week as several Fed officials suggested the U.S. central bank could reduce buying debt securities by the end of the year, even after a weaker-than-expected payrolls report earlier this month.

While elevated inflation has kept pressure on policymakers, data overnight showed the U.S. consumer price index, excluding the volatile food and energy components, edged up just 0.1% last month.

The Federal Open Market Committee's (FOMC) two-day policy meeting next week should provide some clarity on the outlook for tapering and interest rates.

Tapering typically lifts the dollar as it suggests the Fed is one step closer to tighter monetary policy. It also means the central bank will be buying fewer debt assets, in effect reducing the number of dollars in circulation and increasing the currency's value.

In early afternoon trading, the euro was little changed against the dollar at $1.1808.

The dollar fell to a four-week low of 109.14 yen, and last changed hands at 109.43, down 0.2%.

Meanwhile, the Chinese yuan and Australian dollar slid after Chinese data showed factory and retail sales growth cooled more sharply than expected last month.

The yuan extended its decline to as far as 6.4433 yuan per dollar. The dollar was last down 0.2% at 6.4261 yuan.

The Aussie dollar sank as low as US$0.7301, its lowest in more than two weeks following China's data, but recovered to trade up 0.1% US$0.7329.