U.S. Dollar Tumbles As Powell Says No Rate Hike, No Taper

U.S. Dollar Tumbles As Powell Says No Rate Hike, No Taper

Kathy Lien  | Feb 24, 2021 06:34

  • Stocks Erase Gains On Powell’s Comments
  • Fed Sees No Rate Hike, No Taper = Broad-Based U.S. Dollar Decline
  • GBP Breaks 1.41 Despite Mixed Labor Data
  • RBNZ Expected To Leave Monetary Policy Unchanged
Investors sold U.S. dollars after Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell made it very clear on Tuesday that there will be no interest rate hikes or tapering in the foreseeable future. The U.S. economy is recovering, inflation is on the rise and with more Americans getting vaccinated, the outlook is bright. In fact, Powell expects to raise the Fed’s 2021 GDP forecast to the range of 6%. Yet, these improvements are not enough for the central bank to move away from its commitment to keep monetary policy easy until a sustainable recovery returns the economy to pre-COVID levels.
In his semi-annual testimony on the economy and monetary policy, Powell said substantial progress has not been made towards the central bank's goals. The Fed is committed to using its full range of tools to support the economy and to help ensure that the recovery from this difficult period will be as robust as possible. Powell said job growth alone won’t drive its decision. Investors didn’t believe him when he said rates need to remain at current levels until the economy reaches maximum employment and inflation hits 2% in early February. Today, he said the bank wants to see inflation moderately above 2% for some time before tightening and when the time comes to change the pace of asset purchases, it will make its intentions very clear. There will be no surprises.
By pledging to keep interest rates where they are now for the next year or two, Powell endorsed a decline in the U.S. dollar. Inflation expectations was the primary reason for the surge in Treasury yields and now that Powell said he’s not worried about the increase, we could see rates descend from their highs. Combine that with the prospect of more spending and there could be further weakness in the greenback, particularly the USD/JPY pair.
Sterling benefitted the most from the slide in the dollar, with GBP/USD taking out 1.41. UK labor data was mixed. While employment change dropped by 114,000 in the month of November, four times more than expected, and the unemployment rate rose to the highest level in five years, average hourly earnings growth was very strong. Wages rose 4.7% against expectations for a 4.1% increase. Numbers like this all but guarantees that the government will need to extend the furlough scheme, but with Prime Minister Boris Johnson providing a plan to open schools and ease restrictions, sterling traders are looking forward to jobs returning. 
In contrast, the euro sold off against the U.S. dollar despite dovish comments from Powell. A lot of this has to do with European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde’s recent comments. She said the ECB is watching the rise in yields very closely, which has some investors worried that it could take steps to drive the currency and rates down.
The focus shifts to Asia tonight, with a Reserve Bank of New Zealand monetary policy announcement on the calendar. The RBNZ is widely expected to leave interest rates unchanged. The last time it met was in November, and it were less dovish. Since then, New Zealand’s recovery slowed, but the global recovery accelerated. With the currency trading near three-year highs, there’s little reason to believe that the central bank is considering a rate cut or a rate hike. The Canadian dollar held onto its gains, while the Australian dollar consolidated.

Kathy Lien

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