March 1 2019

Mar. 1, 2019 (Western Union Business Solutions)  – The U.S. dollar made a mixed start to March. On the bright side, the U.S. currency pushed to 10-week highs against the yen and rebounded from seven-month lows against sterling. However, risk-on sentiment amid a global stock rally worked in the favor of the euro and commodity rivals like the loonie, Aussie and kiwi dollars. Rising Treasury yields have pulled the greenback out of its biggest hole in weeks. Evidence of still-solid U.S. growth lifted the yield on the benchmark 10-year bond above 2.70%, accentuating the dollar’s allure in a low rate world. The euro steadied as a mix of good and bad economic news from Europe largely counterbalanced. Sterling was on track for its best week in a month, though a bout of profit-taking keep it below mid-2018 highs. A potential catalyst looms for the greenback today in influential U.S. data on the consumer and inflation.


Data leaves euro uninspired


A mixed bag of European data offset to leave the euro little changed. Unemployment in the 19-country bloc steadied at 7.8% in January, the lowest in more than a decade. Higher energy lifted overall inflation by a tick to 1.5% in February. But the more reliable and less volatile gauge of core inflation weakened to 1% from 1.1%. Lower underlying inflation will dial up pressure on the ECB to consider offering stronger monetary support to its lackluster economy. The central bank meets next week when it’s expected to leave its main lending rate unchanged at zero. The ECB also will provide fresh economic forecasts. Any downgrade to the growth outlook would raise an already elevated bar for the ECB to raise interest rates later this year, a scenario that could tighten the lid on the euro.


Sterling poised for 2nd weekly gain


Sterling surrendered part of a rally that hoisted it to July 2018 highs against the greenback as traders took profit on its 2-cent rise over the week which was on pace for its best weekly performance in a month. The latest Brexit developments suggested Britain would avoid a nasty no deal exit later this month. Meanwhile, odds of Britain choosing to delay its Mar. 29 departure increased. As for Britain’s economy, a gauge of factory growth slowed in February, underscoring the urgency for Britain to avert an ugly no deal withdrawal from the EU.


Loonie tumbles after dreadful data


The loonie entered March like a dove after shockingly weak data kept higher rates off the table and out of sight. Canada’s economy slowed to a 0.4% annual rate in the fourth quarter, which missed forecasts of 1.2% by a longshot. Growth last quarter was the slowest in two years and down sharply from the 2% pace during the third quarter. On a monthly basis, growth contracted in December for a second straight month. The data cemented expectations for the Bank of Canada on Mar. 6 at 10 a.m. ET to leave interest rates unchanged at 1.75%. Moreover, the sharp slowdown could also give rise to talk of the next move in rates being a loonie-negative cut.


Steady inflation supports dollar

The dollar kept positive in the wake of mixed data on the U.S. economy. Consumer income and spending both contracted in December. But the good news was on inflation as core prices steadied at 1.9%, keeping in close proximity of the Fed’s 2% bullseye. Today’s data should keep the Fed sidelined over the foreseeable future. Still, stable inflation near the Fed’s goal will keep the door open to higher rates, the chief catalyst behind the dollar’s outperformance. Next week: Nonfarm payrolls.