FOREX-Dollar extends losses as Fed minutes signal slower rate hikes

(Update prices)

By Samuel Indyk

LONDON, Nov 24 (Reuters) – The US dollar extended losses on Thursday after the minutes from the Federal Reserve’s November meeting supported the view that the central bank would downshift and raise rates in smaller steps from its December meeting.

The eagerly awaited readout of the Nov. 1-2 meeting showed officials were largely satisfied they could now move in smaller steps, with a 50 basis point rate rise likely next month after four consecutive 75 basis point increases.

“The Fed will be happy to move rates by 50 basis points in December and 25 basis points from the first meeting next year,” said Niels Christensen, chief analyst at Nordea, noting that the Fed will still feel it needs to do more to bring inflation down.

“As long as the Fed sees a stronger labor market, they don’t have a big concern about tightening,” Christensen said.

The dollar index, which measures the greenback against six major peers, was down 0.2% at 105.75, after sliding 1.1% on Wednesday.

The Fed has taken interest rates to levels not seen since 2008 but slightly cooler-than-expected US consumer price data has stoked expectations of a more moderate pace of hikes.

Those hopes have seen the dollar index slide 5.2% in November, putting it on track for its worst monthly performance in 12 years.

“There are not that many dollar buyers around these days after the correction higher in euro-dollar in the first half of November,” Nordea’s Christensen added.

The euro held onto gains after the account of the European Central Bank’s October meeting showed policymakers feared that inflation might be getting entrenched, justifying their outlook for further rate hikes.

The single currency was last up 0.2% at $1.0415, while sterling was trading at $1.2135, up 0.7% on the day. The pound rallied 1.4% on Wednesday after preliminary British economic activity data beat expectations, although it still showed that a contraction was under way.

The euro weakened 0.4% against the Swedish krone after Sweden’s Riksbank raised rates by 75 basis points, in line with expectations in a Reuters poll, but signaled additional hikes would be needed to fight surging inflation.

The yuan firmed after Chinese state media quoted the cabinet as saying that Beijing will use timely cuts in banks’ reserve requirement ratio (RRR), alongside other monetary policy tools, to keep liquidity reasonably ample.

Meanwhile, billionaire investor Bill Ackman said he’s betting the Hong Kong dollar will fall and that its peg to the US dollar could break.

Since May, the Hong Kong dollar has been pinned near the weaker end of its band, although it has lifted a bit in recent weeks as markets start to price a peak in US rates. It was last at 7.8102 per dollar.

The Japanese yen was one of the strongest gainers among major currencies, climbing 0.9% against the dollar to 138,285.

US markets will be closed on Thursday for Thanksgiving and liquidity will likely be thinner than usual.

(Reporting by Samuel Indyk in London and Ankur Banerjee in Singapore; Editing by Edwina Gibbs, Edmund Klamann and Marguerita Choy)

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