Dollar holds gains as uncertainty weighs on market sentiment

The US dollar held on to gains against most currencies on Wednesday as renewed questions about a Covid-19 vaccine and lack of an agreement on additional US fiscal stimulus prompted a shift to safer assets.

The yuan was little changed versus the dollar after the central bank’s daily fixing of the yuan’s mid-point was largely in line with estimates, suggesting authorities have paused their attempts to rein in the currency. The euro and British pound are likely to extend declines, analysts said, as a return of restrictions on economic activity in Europe and Britain to battle a second wave of Covid-19 infections unnerves investors.

Currency moves, however, are likely to be subdued as the US presidential election looms on November 3, but analysts said sentiment is leaning against riskier bets, which should support the dollar in the coming days. “Many factors are pointing to more upside for the dollar,” said Masafumi Yamamoto, chief currency strategist at Mizuho Securities. “US stimulus may not come until after the election. The People’s Bank of China is halting the yuan’s rise. There’s no reason to buy the euro, and there are a lot of euro longs that need to be unwound.” The dollar last stood at $1.1744 per euro, holding on to a 0.6 per cent gain from the previous session. The pound traded at $1.2932, nursing a 1 per cent loss from Tuesday.

Bleak sentiment

Sterling also took a hit due to worries about little progress in trade talks between Britain and the European Union and the chance the Bank of England will adopt negative interest rates. Risk appetite has weakened after Johnson & Johnson said on Tuesday it is pausing a clinical trial of a coronavirus vaccine and Eli Lilly and Co also said it paused a coronavirus antibody treatment. Hopes are fading that US Republicans and Democrats will reach a compromise on a new round of fiscal stimulus, which would deal a blow to the economic outlook. Both developments are supporting the dollar, traders said.

The onshore yuan last traded at 6.7422 per dollar. On Monday the yuan posted its biggest daily fall in seven months after the central bank cut foreign exchange forward reserve requirements, which makes it cheaper to short the currency. The Australian dollar was little changed in early Asian trade but is likely to add to its 1 per cent decline on Tuesday due to concern about a row with Beijing over coal imports, traders said. Across the Tasman Sea, the New Zealand dollar edged higher against its US counterpart. Reserve Bank of New Zealand Assistant Governor Christian Hawkesby said on Wednesday that some economic data have surprised to the upside. But he also said the central bank’s discussion of negative interest rates is “not a game of bluff”.

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