Dollar holds gains on economic re-start hopes but virus risks remain
The dollar rose against most of its major peers on Monday as moves by the United States and other countries to re-open their economies raised hopes for a quicker global recovery from a deep recession triggered by the coronavirus health crisis.
Sterling was little changed against the dollar and the euro after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson outlined plans to slowly ease coronavirus lockdown restrictions.
Data on Friday showed the United States shed 20.5 million jobs in April, the steepest plunge in payrolls since the Great Depression, but traders are starting to look past such grim economic numbers as they bet on future growth.
“The bad news about the U.S. labour market was pretty much as expected, and people now assume that economic activity will restart sooner rather than later in the United States and Europe,” said Tohru Sasaki, head of Japan markets research at J.P. Morgan Securities in Tokyo.
“We don’t have to be so bearish on the dollar.”
While the dollar often trades as a safe-haven asset given its reserve currency status, it has recently developed some positive correlation with Wall Street as investors focus on yields.
On Friday, Wall Street indexes rallied, defying the gloom from one of the worst U.S. jobs reports in decades.
The U.S. currency changed hands at 0.9706 Swiss franc CHF=EBS.
The Australian dollar AUD=D3, which is often traded as a proxy for risk because of its close ties to China’s economy and global commodities, recovered from an early fall and rose to$0.6549.
Across the Tasman Sea, the New Zealand dollar NZD=D3 also rose against its U.S. counterpart to $0.6148.
California, Michigan, and Ohio, three important states for U.S. manufacturing, are taking steps to allow factories and some businesses to resume work in a boost to sentiment.
Currency futures suggest the greenback could continue to edge higher.
Speculators trimmed net short positions in the U.S. dollar to $9.148 billion in the week ended May 5 from $10.23 billion the previous week, according to calculations by Reuters and U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission data released on Friday.
Some traders say uncertainty about the virus still poses downside risks for the dollar.
Vice President Mike Pence is not in quarantine and plans to be at the White House on Monday, a spokesman said on Sunday, despite media reports that he was self-isolating after a staffer tested positive for the novel coronavirus.
However, three senior officials guiding the U.S. response to the pandemic have chosen to self-quarantine.
In the onshore market, the yuan CNY=CFXS traded at 7.0772, little changed on the day.
Officials in China have reported a new cluster of infections in the northeastern province of Jilin, which is another cause for concern.
The novel coronavirus first emerged in China late last year and then spread across the globe.
The pound GBP=D3 was little changed at $1.2432 on Monday in Asia. Against the euro EURGBP=D3, sterling held steady at 87.28 pence.
Johnson, in a televised address on Sunday, announced a limited easing of coronavirus restrictions that have shuttered much of the economy for weeks, including encouraging some people to return to work.
The government wants the rest of the United Kingdom to take the same approach, but there were immediate divisions, with the leaders of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland saying they were sticking with the existing “stay-at-home” message.
Johnson’s government has faced criticism over its handling of the pandemic. At nearly 32,000, Britain’s coronavirus death toll is the second highest in the world, behind the United States.