Euro rises on Bundesbank report; Fed minutes in focus

NEW YORK Mon Aug 19, 2013 9:59pm BST

1 of 2. U.S. one-hundred dollar bills are seen in this photo illustration at a bank in Seoul August 2, 2013. Picture taken August 2, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Kim Hong-Ji

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - The euro rose to a two-week high against the yen and edged higher versus the dollar on Monday, boosted by comments from the Bundesbank which suggested the European Central Bank's low interest rate pledge last month was not set in stone.

In its August monthly report, the Bundesbank said the ECB's forward guidance on low interest rates was "not an unconditional commitment". The comment raised expectations the ECB's next move on rates would depend on the medium-term outlook for inflation.

The ECB in July committed to keep interest rates at record lows for an "extended period".

The Bundesbank's statement pushed the euro to the day's highs against the dollar at $1.3374.

The German central bank was also optimistic about Germany's growth. The country's expansion in the second quarter - when it grew at its fastest pace in more than a year - likely returned the economy to a more normal growth path, the Bundesbank said.

The euro's gains, however, were limited by the rise in U.S. 10-year Treasury yields on Monday, which advanced to 2.90 percent, their highest in two years. Investors looked ahead to Wednesday's release of the Federal Reserve's minutes of the July meeting, which could strengthen the view that the Fed could soon taper its bond-buying program.

"We've seen the Bundesbank comments support the euro earlier in London, although it has come off since this morning due to the back-up in Treasury yields," said Brian Kim, currency strategist, at RBS Securities in Stamford, Connecticut.

In late afternoon trading, the euro rose 0.1 percent to $1.3338, within sight of the $1.3400 level it touched on August 8, the highest since June 19, according to Reuters data.

Against the yen, the euro rose 0.2 percent to 130.11 yen. It hit a peak of 131.03 yen, the euro's highest since August 5.

Andres Bergero, vice president and chief corporate trader at Bank of the West in San Ramon, California, said the Bundesbank is known to be hawkish when compared to other central banks in the euro zone. He noted that the euro rallied "possibly because of a change of perception of the Bundesbank's stance."

Inflation in the euro zone was last reported at 1.6 percent in June, well below the ECB's 2 percent inflation target and above the ECB's forecast of 1.4 percent in 2013.

Bergero said the euro's mid-June high of $1.3414 may provide resistance for the single euro zone currency, and support is seen at around $1.3180.

Investors have also started to focus on the Fed's minutes from its July 30-31 meeting, to be published on Wednesday. The minutes could fuel expectations the Fed will start reducing its $85-billion per month bond purchase program. Such a move could further boost U.S. Treasury yields, enhancing the attractiveness of dollar-denominated assets.

The dollar index was little changed on Monday, at 81.245, still above a low of 80.868 plumbed on August 8.

Expectations of a scaling back of Fed stimulus have driven U.S. benchmark yields to two-year highs. The impact on the dollar has been offset by the improving euro zone and UK economies, which have underpinned the euro and sterling.

Analysts said euro zone manufacturing and services activity data due on Thursday could help the euro.

The latest data from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission showed that currency speculators were bullish on the euro for a second straight week which ended on August 13.

Against the yen, the dollar was slightly higher at 97.59 yen. Chartists said if the dollar breaks above the August 15 peak of 98.64 yen, it could retest the August high of 99.94 yen.

While U.S. Treasury yields have risen more than 10 basis points from last Friday's low to Monday's high, Japanese government bond (JGB) yields have inched up by only around 2.0 basis points.

As a result, the U.S.-Japan bond spread "continues to widen in favour of dollar/yen upside," strategists at UBS said.

On Tuesday, investors will focus on the minutes of the Reserve Bank of Australia's August 6 meeting at which officials cut rates to new lows. What the minutes suggest about the duration of the RBA's easing policy should be a key driver for the Australian dollar this week.

"The RBA minutes may highlight a greater willingness to further embark on the easing cycle and the central bank head make further attempt to talk down the Australian dollar in an effort to balance the risks surrounding the region."

The Aussie dollar ended the day down 0.8 percent against the greenback at US$0.9108. It has fallen 12.33 percent versus the U.S. dollar so far this year.

(Additional reporting by Wanfeng Zhou; editing by Andrew Hay)

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