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Euro sags on weaker-than-expected data, Aussie firms on trade optimism

Euro sags on weaker-than-expected data, Aussie firms on trade optimism
Image Credit: Pixabay

The dollar held near three-month highs versus the euro on Thursday, supported by sustained strength in core U.S. inflation and weaker-than-expected data out of Europe. While headline U.S. inflation logged its weakest pace in 1-1/2-years in January, traders focused on the core price gauge, which was up for the third straight month, giving the dollar some impetus. The euro was trading below the psychologically important $1.13 level at $1.1283. Earlier in the session, it hit an intra-day low of $1.1245.

The greenback was hit earlier this year by the Federal Reserve' shift to a cautious policy stance. However, the latest data suggests the central bank will need to stay vigilant on pricing pressures even as it adjusts to heightened growth risks. "The trend in core U.S. inflation remains steady, against some concerns of a potential decline..indeed at 2.2 percent year-on-year, the current reading is up from the 1.8 per cent reading a year ago," said Rodrigo Catril, senior currency strategist at NAB. "Overall the data suggest that we cannot rule out a resumption of Fed rate hikes later in the year."

The Australian dollar, often considered a barometer for global risk appetite, was up 0.3 percent at $0.7110, having gained about 0.5 percent in the previous session on optimism about the China-U.S. trade talks. The strength in the Aussie was also buoyed by stronger-than-expected economic data out of China, Australia's largest trade partner. China's January dollar-denominated exports rose 9.1 percent from a year earlier, while imports dropped 1.5 percent, both beating analysts' expectations, official data showed on Thursday.

The dollar index, a gauge of its value versus six major peers, was marginally higher at 97.20, having gained 0.5 percent in the previous session. The index has rallied 1.7 percent so far this month, after two consecutive months of losses. That contrasted with the wobbles in the euro. The single currency, which has around a 58 percent weighting in the dollar index, has tumbled 1.63 percent this month on the back of weaker-than-expected economic data out of the euro zone and expectations the European Central Bank will remain highly accommodative this year.

Euro zone industrial production fell more than expected in December, official estimates showed on Wednesday, pulled down by a drop in the output of capital goods, used for investment. Political uncertainty in Spain, the currency bloc's fourth largest economy, has further hampered the euro. Spain's parliament rejected a draft 2019 budget on Wednesday after Catalan separatists turned their back on the government, pushing the country close to an early national election amid an increasingly fragmented political landscape.

Broad risk appetite in financial markets has been on the uptick in the past couple of days on rising expectations of a breakthrough in the trade impasse between United States and China. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer are in Beijing for high level talks. U.S. President Donald Trump said on Wednesday the talks with China were "going along very well" as they try to resolve the tariff dispute ahead of a March 1 deadline.

U.S. tariffs on $200 billion worth of imports from China are scheduled to rise to 25 percent from 10 percent if the two sides don't reach a deal by the deadline, increasing pressure and costs in sectors from consumer electronics to agriculture. Elsewhere, the yen was steady at 110.99. The dollar has gained against its Japanese rival in recent weeks, up 1.9 percent so far in February. Analysts believe that Japanese demand for foreign bonds is one factor leading to weakness in the yen. The New Zealand dollar rose by 0.3 percent to $0.6820, having rallied hard the previous day after the nation's central bank adopted a less dovish line on policy than many of its global counterparts.

(With inputs from agencies.)

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