MARCH 05, 2024
By Harry Robertson and Wayne Cole

LONDON/SYDNEY, March 5 (Reuters) – The dollar held steady against the euro on Tuesday as investors looked towards the European Central Bank’s rate decision and U.S. jobs numbers later in the week.
Bitcoin neared a record high as the latest bout of crypto-mania showed no signs of dimming, while China’s yuan was little changed after Beijing laid down an ambitious economic growth target of around 5% for 2024, as widely expected.

Currencies appeared hamstrung in a very busy week of political and economic events, with the euro idling at $1.085 , having earlier tested resistance around $1.0867.

The dollar index , which measures the currency against six major peers, edged very slightly higher to 103.89.
“Markets have kind of settled into an equilibrium, especially in the rates space,” said Alvin Tan, head of Asia FX strategy at RBC Capital Markets, referring to high levels of correlation in global bond markets, which has reduced the opportunities for currencies to move.

“We’ll need to see the data need to turn either way to really move the market. And of course in the short term there’s quite a lot of ‘event risk’ this week.”
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The ECB meets to discuss policy on Thursday but is widely expected to leave interest rates at a record 4%. Investors will be on the lookout for any hints about when rates might start to fall and will scrutinise updated economic projections.

U.S. employment figures for February have the potential to rock global markets on Friday. Economists expect hiring slowed last month but a bigger-than-expected number could add to the dollar’s 2.5% rise this year so far.

Before that, on Wednesday and Thursday, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell will testify to Congress. Crypto-mania is still running wild, with bitcoin trading around $66,500, having surged to $68,828 earlier in the session, just shy of the record peak of $68,999.99 it touched in November 2021. The largest cryptocurrency by market value is up around 58% this year, benefiting from flows into exchange-traded funds launched in the United States

Report this ad Early news out of China’s National People’s Congress contained few surprises, with Beijing sticking with a economic growth target of 5% and a budget deficit of 3%. Analysts at Nomura said the growth target will be challenging to meet without much more stimulus. Spot yuan opened at 7.1950 per dollar and was changing hands at 7.1994, while the offshore yuan was little changed at $7.2121.

The dollar was last at 150.37 yen , down 0.1%, having again shied away from resistance around 150.85, which has capped the currency for more than three months now. A break higher would open the way to November’s top at 151.92, but would also run the risk of provoking Japanese intervention. Markets currently imply around a 65% chance the Fed will start cutting U.S. rates in June and expect the central bank to ease by around 75 basis points this year.

Powell is likely to reinforce the message that the Fed wants to wait for more data in his Congressional testimony. “We should expect Fed Chair Powell to reiterate patience and emphasize (there is) no hurry to cut rates,” said Christopher Wong, currency strategist at OCBC in Singapore. “However, these are known knowns and should not affect markets too much unless Powell signals more forceful pushbacks, that could lead to further hawkish re-pricing.” Sterling eased 0.1% to $1.2674 ahead of the British budget on Wednesday. Finance Minister Jeremy Hunt has been trying to dampen speculation about big pre-election tax cuts.

Reporting by Harry Robertson in London, Wayne Cole in Sydney and Ankur Banerjee in Singapore; Editing by Sam Holmes and Kim Coghill