The dollar surged to a 24-year peak against the yen and a 37-year high versus sterling on Wednesday, as Japan's dovish monetary policy and Europe's economic problems contrasted with a relatively stronger U.S. economy and a hawkish Federal Reserve determined to bring down inflation to its 2% inflation target.
The U.S. currency soared as high as 144.99 yen , hitting the level for the first time since August 1998. It is now within a large leap of its 1998 high of 147.43. The dollar was last up 0.9% at 144.09 yen.
Against sterling , the greenback hit $1.1407, the lowest since 1985 and last down 0.1% at $1.1509.
"Increasingly, it is becoming a growth story and really a crisis story. We have China continuing to have a COVID-zero policy, and if anything continuing to double down, locking down more cities," said Erik Nelson, macro strategist, at Wells Fargo in New York City.
"Europe and the UK look like they are headed for a challenging couple of months, with recession very likely for both economies. The U.S., on the other hand, looks resilient," he added.
The euro fell below 99 cents on Wednesday after dipping as low as $0.9864 on Tuesday, its lowest since October 2002. Europe's single currency was last up 0.8% at US$0.9985.
The European Central Bank is seen likely to deliver a massive 75 basis-point rate hike on Thursday, but these expectations have done little to support the euro given a battered European economy and Russia's decision to keep the key Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline shut indefinitely.
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In contrast, a report overnight showed the U.S. services industry unexpectedly picked up last month, underpinning the view that the economy is not in recession.
Also on Wednesday, the Bank of Canada raised interest rates by 75 bps to a 14-year high on Wednesday, as expected, and said the policy rate would need to go even higher as it battles raging inflation.
Despite the BoC rate hike, the U.S. dollar was little changed against the Canadian currency at C$1.3141.
Moves in the FX markets were most dramatic on the yen, whose tumble, even by its own recent standards, has been precipitous. Since the beginning of August, the yen has plummeted by 10.1% against the dollar .
At current dollar/yen levels, speculation is also growing that Japan could intervene to prop up the currency.
"Every time the yen weakens, it asks the BOJ (Bank of Japan) a question, as to whether now is the time to abandon YCC (yield curve control)?," wrote Alan Ruskin, macro strategist at Deutsche Bank in its latest research note.
"When nothing more than verbal intervention is at hand, the market can read from the lip service that the authorities are still some way from tightening monetary policy."
Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno told a news briefing that the administration would like to take necessary steps if "rapid, one-sided" moves in currency markets continue, ratcheting up the rhetoric.
However, many analysts see intervention as difficult given that global central banks are more focused on inflation rather than exchange rates.
Elsewhere China's yuan sank to a two-year trough, closing in on the 7-per-dollar mark despite steps by authorities to stem its decline. The onshore yuan weakened to a low of 6.9808, the lowest since August 2020, and the offshore yuan was even closer to the key level, falling as low as 6.997 per dollar.
Cryptocurrency bitcoin earlier slumped to the lowest since June 19 at $18,540, extending a 5% tumble from Tuesday. It was last up 1.6% at $19,078.