November 28, 2018 / 8:45 AM / 18 days ago

REFILE-FOREX-Dollar nears 2018 high ahead of Powell speech

(Fixing typo in first paragraph.)

* Dollar buoyed by Fed comments, safe-haven bid

* Traders eye Powell speech for cues on rate hikes

* Yen weakens to a two-week low

* Euro trades below the 1.13 level

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

By Tom Finn

LONDON, Nov 28 (Reuters) - The dollar rose on Wednesday before a speech by the Federal Reserve’s chairman that may provide insights into the central bank’s plans for monetary tightening and its reaction to recent criticism by U.S. President Donald Trump.

The dollar has been under pressure in recent weeks on signs the Fed might slow the pace of rate increases amid slowing global growth, peak corporate earnings and escalating trade tensions.

Scaling back rate increases could weaken the dollar, the world’s most liquid currency, which has risen 10 percent since January.

“How concerned the Fed sounds about the current economic slowdown will be seen as an indication as to how quickly a rate pause might come,” said Thu Lan Nguye, a currency strategist with Commerzbank in Frankfurt. “I would be prepared for increased volatility in USD exchange rates.”

Investors will also focus on whether Fed Chairman Jerome Powell addresses growing hostility from Trump, who said in an interview on Tuesday he is “not even a little bit happy” with Powell and that the Fed’s policies are hurting the economy.

Analysts say it is unlikely political interference will alter the Fed’s approach.

“The Fed relishes its independence and their approach is very mathematical and systematic. Under no circumstances do we expect the U.S. central bank to be pressured by Trump,” said Stephen Innes, head of trading, APAC at Oanda.

The dollar index, a gauge of its value versus six other major currencies, rose 0.2 percent to trade at 97.51, its highest since Nov 13. The currency has risen for three sessions in a row and is just below this year’s high of 97.69.

Dollar strength also reflected risks around the G20 summit in Buenos Aires from Nov. 30-Dec. 1. Trump and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, are scheduled to discuss contentious trade matters there.

Trump said this week that it was “highly unlikely” he would accept China’s request to hold off a planned increase in tariffs. That drove investors to safe-haven currencies such as the dollar and the yen.

The yen on Wednesday hit a two-week low of 113.85 on Wednesday.

The euro fell 0.2 percent versus the dollar to $1.1267. It has lost 1.5 percent of its value in recent sessions on signs the euro zone economy is weakening and on tension between the European Union and Italy over Rome’s budget.

Sterling weakened to $1.2733. Traders are betting that British Prime Minister Theresa May will fail to get her Brexit agreement through a fractious parliament. (Additional reporting by Vatsal Srivastava in Singapore, editing by Larry King)

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