January 18, 2019 / 11:38 AM / 7 months ago

FOREX-Dollar poised for first weekly rise in 5 weeks

* Graphic: World FX rates in 2018 tmsnrt.rs/2egbfVh

By Saikat Chatterjee

LONDON, Jan 18 (Reuters) - The dollar held firm against its rivals on Friday and is poised for its first weekly gain in five weeks as investors trimmed some of their excessive short bets against it after some weak eurozone data this week.

Going into 2019, weakness in the dollar was a consensus view among currency market traders on bets that the U.S. central bank will stop raising interest rates and the economy would slow after a fiscal boost last year.

While expectations of a U.S. rate pause have manifested in money markets, bets on policy tightening by other major central banks have also receded, giving a boost to the dollar.

Money markets are assigning less than a 50 percent probability of an ECB rate hike this year and 80 percent likelihood of a rate hike from the Bank of England.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch cut its forecast for euro area growth in 2019 to 1.1 percent from 1.4 percent on Friday, saying uncertainty over trade policy and weak Chinese data were taking their toll on economies in the bloc.

“With the market consensus being short dollar at the start of the year, some of the expectations are being unwound especially in light of the tepid European economic data,” said Timothy Graf, head of macro strategy at SSGA in London.

Against a basket of its rivals, the dollar was broadly steady but was set to rise 0.4 percent on the week, its biggest weekly rise since mid-December.

Weaker economic data is also a feature in China. On Friday, China’s statistics bureau revised down its final 2017 gross domestic product (GDP) growth to 6.8 percent from 6.9 percent, after scaling back initial estimates of the industrial and services sector.

“For non-dollar currencies to make further gains from these levels, we have to see evidence that other major central banks are preparing to tighten policy,” said Manuel Oliveri, a currency strategist at Credit Agricole in London.

Still, despite the weak economic data, market sentiment was slightly boosted on signs of growing optimism in trade talks between China and the United States.

Chinese Vice Premier Liu He will visit the United States on Jan. 30 and 31 for the latest round of trade talks aimed at resolving the trade standoff between the world’s two largest economies.

That optimism was evident in the euro/Swiss franc cross which edged higher towards a one-week high at 1.1329 francs per euro.

The Swedish crown was a rare beneficiary against the dollar and the euro after Social Democrat leader Stefan Lofven won a second term in office, ending more than four months of deadlock after a virtually tied election.

The pound slipped against the euro, partially trimming some of its overnight gains as traders wagered on a second referendum vote on Britain’s EU membership.

Reporting by Saikat Chatterjee Editing by Peter Graff

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