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Dollar Climbs on Hawkish Powell Speech; Yen Slumps to Six-Year Low

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By Peter Nurse

Investing.com – The U.S. dollar strengthened Tuesday, particularly against the Japanese yen, after hawkish comments from Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell raised expectations of a faster tightening cycle. 

At 4 AM ET (0800 GMT), the Dollar Index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of six other currencies, traded 0.4% higher at 98.903.

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell emphasized the central bank’s desire to clamp down on surging inflation on Monday, at a conference of the National Association for Business Economics, saying the policymakers will take the “necessary steps” to get prices down.

“If we conclude that it is appropriate to move more aggressively by raising the federal funds rate by more than 25 basis points at a meeting or meetings, we will do so,” Powell said.

The Fed raised the benchmark lending rate by a quarter point at their meeting last week, the first increase since December 2018, and signaled six more hikes of that size this year.

This provides a stark contrast with the stance of Japan’s central bank, which maintains an ultra-loose monetary policy lest inflation hurt the economy. BOJ Governor Haruhiko Kuroda stated on Tuesday that Tokyo must maintain its extremely stimulative monetary policy as its economy is still in the very early stages of recovery.

Two-year, five-year, 10-year and 30-year U.S. Treasury yields all climbed to their highest levels since 2019 early Tuesday, widening the gap on pinned Japanese yields, and USD/JPY soared 0.8% to 120.44, above the physiologically-important 120 level to a six-year high. The pair has gained more than 4% this month on the different policy stances. 

“USD/JPY, having broken through 120.00, had 123.00 and 125.00 potentially in its sights. Any thoughts that the Ministry of Finance will intervene were complete nonsense unless moves in the yen become extremely disorderly,” said Jeffrey Halley, OANDA’s Senior Market Analyst for Asia Pacific.

The dollar gains were not only against the yen, with EUR/USD down 0.4% to 1.0975 and GBP/USD 0.2% lower at 1.3137. Both currencies have been hit by expectations of weaker European economic growth as the Ukraine war rages on.

European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde stated on Monday that the ECB and the Federal Reserve will move out of sync in the foreseeable future, as the war in Ukraine has vastly different effects on their economies.

“Our two economies are in a different place in the economic cycle, even before the war in Ukraine,” Lagarde told a financial conference. “For geographical reasons, Europe is way more exposed (to the war) than the U.S..”

AUD/USD dropped 0.2% to 0.7384, NZD/USD fell 0.1% to 0.6879, both handing back recent gains, while USD/CNY rose 0.1% to 6.3604 ahead of expected easing by China’s central bank to support the country’s struggling economic recovery.

Dollar Climbs on Hawkish Powell Speech; Yen Slumps to Six-Year Low

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