© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: US dollar banknotes are displayed in this illustration taken, February 14, 2022. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic
By Tom Westbrook
SINGAPORE (Reuters) – The dollar hit a two-decade high on Monday as investors searched for safety and yield due to growing concerns over slowing global economic growth and rising interest rates.
Surging inflation, the war in Ukraine, and tighter lockdowns against COVID-19 in Beijing and Shanghai, have left investors uncertain on many counts, but they are sure that US interest rates are going up — and the dollar is following.
“Moves in US interest rates are not the only dollar support,” said strategists at NatWest Markets in a note.
“Downside risks to global growth mood from Ukraine and China are more pressing for Europe and Asia relative to the US, creating an air of 2018-style dollar exceptionalism.”
The greenback made a 22-month high on the growth-sensitive New Zealand dollar and rose 1% to a three-month high against the Australian dollar as Asia’s stockmarkets tumbled. It rose 0.3% to its highest since 2019 on the Swiss franc.
The euro was down 0.4% at $1.0508 and a whisker above a recent trough of $1.0469. The yen was close to two-decade lows at 130.96 per dollar, while sterling wallowed at $1.2294, barely above Friday’s 22-month low. The Canadian dollar has hit its lowest since December.
In China trade data showed imports flatlined in April and exports rose 3.9% – a little better than expected and enough to hold the Australian dollar at $0.7006 and off January’s low of $0.6967.
However the yuan was dragged to a fresh 18-month low of 6,7110 per dollar as lockdowns in Shanghai were tightened. Traders see the fallout from the inevitable drag on China’s economy raking across the region.
The fell 0.9% to $0.6346 and the US dollar made multi-year highs on the trade-sensitive Taiwan dollar, South Korean won, Singapore dollar and Malaysian ringgit.
It hit its highest in nine months against the Indonesian rupiah.
The yield on benchmark 10-year US government bonds has climbed a staggering 163 basis points this year and taken the dollar with it.
The is up nearly 9% for the year and gained for a fifth week in a row last week. It equalled Friday’s near 20-year high of 104.070 during the jittery Asia session.
Speculation that Russian President Vladimir Putin might declare war on Ukraine in order to call up reserves during his speech at “Victory Day” celebrations also hurt market sentiment.
Putin has so far characterized Russia’s actions in Ukraine as a “special military operation”, not a war, or an invasion.
The US Federal Reserve hiked its benchmark funds rate 50 basis points (bps) last week and strong jobs data has reinforced bets on further big hikes, with inflation figures due on Wednesday in focus as next risk of an upside surprise.
Futures markets are pricing a 75% chance of a 75 bp rate rise at the Fed’s next meeting in June and more than 200 bps of tightening by year’s end.
“Risks around US CPI feel binary; a moderation from 8.5%would be mildly comforting, but a lift would doubtless revive expectations for 75 bp Fed hikes, and probably give the dollar a boost,” said analysts at ANZ Bank.
“The idea that synchronized global tightening might proceed gently now feels like a forgotten dream.”
Cryptocurrencies have been battered in the rush from risky assets and bitcoin was nursing weekend losses and near its lowest levels of the year at $33,780 while ether, which fell 4% on Sunday, was at $2,470.