Dollar weakness helps pound and euro, elections in focus By Reuters

By Alun John and Brigid Riley

LONDON/TOKYO (Reuters) -The pound and the euro gained against the dollar, after weak U.S. economic data sent the greenback lower on Wednesday and as voting began in Britain and the French election neared.

Sterling was last at $1.2757, up 0.1%, on Thursday after gaining 0.46% the previous day and touching a three-week high, while the euro was at $1.0801, up 0.1%1 after a gain of 0.4% on Wednesday and reaching a three-week top.

The pound is now up on the year against the dollar, making it the best performing G10 currency in 2024.

The dollar fell on softer-than-expected U.S. economic data on Wednesday, including a weak services report and ADP employment report, depicting a slowing economy, after a rise in initial applications for unemployment benefits last week.

“The data is feeding expectations that maybe the labour market is weakening and the Fed will be able to cut rates later in the year,” said Jane Foley, head of FX strategy at Rabobank.

Markets now see nearly 50 basis points of Federal Reserve interest rate cuts in 2024, most likely starting with a 25-basis-point move in September and a second by year-end, bets which also brought down U.S. Treasury yields. [US/]

The most important monthly U.S. labour market data, non-farm payrolls, due on Friday, is expected to show an increase of 190,000 jobs in June after a rise of 272,000 in May, a Reuters poll of economists showed. 

U.S. markets are closed on Thursday for the July 4 holiday.

British voters began to go to the polls on Thursday and look set to elect Labour Party leader Keir Starmer as the next prime minister, sweeping Rishi Sunak’s Conservative Party out of office after 14 often turbulent years.

Foley attributed two main reasons for the limited market reaction to the calling of elections and campaigning drama.

“Firstly, Labour has been consistently above (the Conservatives) in opinion polls for some time, so there has been no shock,” she said.

“The second reason is Keir Starmer and Rachel Reeves have done quite a good job at convincing investors and the electorate that they have moved the party into the centre ground.”

Reeves is the Labour Party’s finance policy chief.

Analysts also pointed to more uncertainty about the French elections, with a run-off set for Sunday.

Market nerves have eased somewhat and the closely watched gap between German and French 10-year yields has narrowed to less than 70 basis points having been above 80 bps ahead of the first round of voting last week. [GVD/EUR]

Francesco Pesole, FX strategist at ING, said this was due to numerous centre and left-wing candidates dropping out of three-way runoffs to curb prospects for Marine Le Pen’s right-wing Naitonal Rally party.

“This raises the chances of a hung parliament, which appears a more desirable outcome for markets as it limits the chances of aggressive spending manoeuvres,” he said.

However, he added, “Our rates team continues to call for structurally wider French spreads and we expect that to weigh on the euro throughout the summer.”

YEN WATCH

The beleaguered Japanese yen, which failed to gain much traction on Wednesday, strengthened, with the dollar down 0.43% at 161.02 yen.

The yen was, however, still not far from a trough of 161.96 per dollar hit in the previous session, its lowest since December 1986, with fundamentals stacked against it. 

Traders were preparing for possible Japanese government currency intervention with U.S. markets off for the July Fourth holiday.

Tokyo’s previous two rounds of yen buying came at illiquid points in the global trading day or holiday-thinned trading. 

© Reuters. Holograms, which show different images and colours depending on the angle at which they are viewed, are seen on the new Japanese 10,000 yen banknote as the new note is displayed at a currency museum of the Bank of Japan, on the day the new notes of 10,000 yen, 5,000 yen and 1,000 yen went into circulation, in Tokyo, Japan July 3, 2024. REUTERS/Issei Kato/Pool

However, the hurdle for intervention may be higher at this stage, said Marito Ueda, general manager of the market research department at SBI Liquidity Market.

“The Ministry of Finance is saying the trigger for intervention is not the level, but if there are excessive moves. It’s hard to step in, since current moves don’t fall into that category.”



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