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FOREX-Dollar catches breath ahead of Powell testimony; bitcoin attempts recovery

·4 min read

* Graphic: World FX rates https://tmsnrt.rs/2RBWI5E By Tom Westbrook SINGAPORE, June 22 (Reuters) - The dollar paused for breath on Tuesday as traders looked to testimony from Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell for further guidance on the central bank's recent surprise shift in its policy outlook, while support crept back for cyptocurrencies. The greenback has gained sharply since the Fed last week flagged sooner-than-expected interest rate hikes, although it dipped on Monday to hand back a little bit of that rise. Against the euro, the dollar nursed an overnight loss of about 0.4% to steady around $1.1909. It crept higher to 110.40 yen, and the dollar index was flat at 91.935 after a loss of about 0.5% on Monday. The Australian and New Zealand dollars eased - after Monday's bounce from multi-month lows - with the Aussie down 0.3% to $0.7520 and the kiwi down 0.15% to $0.6978. "We've had a meaningful shift (at the Fed) from a longtime dovish stance to now a slightly hawkish one," said Westpac currency analyst Imre Speizer. "We've had a bit of a positioning cleanout," he added. "The whole world was mega short the U.S. dollar, and that's in good part probably been cleaned out already, and now we take a wee breath before the next move up," he said. In the medium term, investors will be keenly focused on the U.S. labour market as its performance is likely to have an influence on the Fed's attitude. In the nearer future, all eyes are on Powell who appears before Congress from 1800 GMT. In prepared remarks he noted sustained labour market improvement and the recent increase in inflation. On Monday hawkish Fed officials such as St. Louis Fed President James Bullard and Dallas Fed President Robert Kaplan had remarked on the risks of acting too slowly. However, New York Fed President John Williams said it was too soon to shift policy, and that he expects inflation to ease from about 3% this year to close to 2% in 2022 and 2023 - leaving markets none the wiser. "The Fed is nearly always late on such things," said RBC Capital Markets' chief economist Tom Porcelli, who thinks core inflation could be higher - just under 3% - by the end of 2022. "That is not 2% inflation," he said in a note, adding it is going to eventually apply pressure to the Fed to move on rates. "In the meantime, we have no doubt with that 2% forecast as cover, Powell will attempt to play down the likelihood of a rate hike next year. But just as he eventually relented on taper talk, he will relent on dismissing talk about hiking rates too. Just give it more time." Also on Tuesday Fed members Loretta Mester are due to make speeches. Elsewhere sterling steadied at $1.3910, holding on to its overnight bounce as investors look forward to the British economy reopening further on July 19. Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies found something of a footing after slumping on Monday when a tightening crackdown on trading and mining in China, as well as technical factors, whacked the asset class. On Tuesday they held above May lows, with bitcoin at $32,929, but the mood remained fragile. "The tides of FONGO (Fear of Not Getting Out) are creeping in," said Chris Weston, head of research at broker Pepperstone. "Bitcoin is also at a make or break point," he said, as it tests May's trough near $30,000. "Ethereum looks plain ugly and if crypto is an emotive asset, then one would have to be the staunchest of HODLers to be holding this and not look for some sort of hedge," he added, using cryto-market slang for bullish investors. ======================================================== Currency bid prices at 455 GMT Description RIC Last U.S. Close Pct Change YTD Pct High Bid Low Bid Previous Change Session Euro/Dollar $1.1906 $1.1918 -0.10% -2.55% +1.1920 +1.1901 Dollar/Yen 110.4300 110.3500 +0.07% +6.91% +110.4700 +110.3650 Euro/Yen Dollar/Swiss 0.9194 0.9178 +0.19% +3.93% +0.9196 +0.9178 Sterling/Dollar 1.3911 1.3934 -0.14% +1.84% +1.3937 +1.3904 Dollar/Canadian 1.2375 1.2362 +0.08% -2.84% +1.2382 +1.2360 Aussie/Dollar 0.7520 0.7542 -0.28% -2.23% +0.7545 +0.7512 NZ 0.6979 0.6992 -0.16% -2.80% +0.6994 +0.6970 Dollar/Dollar All spots Tokyo spots Europe spots Volatilities Tokyo Forex market info from BOJ (Reporting by Tom Westbrook; editing by Richard Pullin & Shri Navaratnam)