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FOREX-Dollar firm as virus' spread and stimulus stalemate raise caution

Tom Westbrook
·4 min read

* Dollar makes small broad gains in Asia * Sterling steady as Brexit breakthrough hopes support * Graphic: World FX rates in 2020 https://tmsnrt.rs/2RBWI5E By Tom Westbrook SINGAPORE, Oct 26 (Reuters) - The dollar found support on Monday, as surging coronavirus cases in Europe and the United States and a lack of progress toward a U.S. stimulus package put traders in a cautious mood, although hopes for a Brexit trade deal held sterling steady. Against a basket of currencies, the greenback trod water in the Asia session, after having fallen broadly last week. Against the risk-sensitive Australian dollar and against the euro it gained about 0.2%. Sterling, however, held firm at $1.3024. The United States has recorded its highest ever number of new COVID-19 cases for two consecutive days and so has France. Spain announced a new state of emergency and Italy has ordered restaurants and bars to shut by 6 p.m. U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Sunday that she expected a White House response on Monday regarding the latest stimulus spending plan, but there have been few tangible signs that a long-stalled deal is actually nearer. "The combination of receding hopes for a pre-election fiscal deal and the news on COVID and potentially stricter lockdowns is enough to take a bite out of the stock market," said Ray Attrill, head of FX strategy at National Australia Bank. He said half-percent dip in S&P 500 futures had spilled over into currency markets, where traders are also in a cautious mood ahead of the U.S. election on Nov. 3. The Japanese yen slipped a fraction on the firmer dollar to 104.85 per dollar and other Asian currencies also traded a touch lower. Hopes for a breakthrough in the trade-deal stalemate between Britain and Europe held the pound steady above $1.30. Over the weekend, Britain's Northern Island minister said there was a good chance of a trade deal. BLUE WAVES AND CENBANKS The week ahead holds three major central bank meetings and the final sprint to the polls in the United States. The Bank of Canada and Bank of Japan are expected to hold fire for now, while the market assumes the European Central Bank will sound cautious on inflation and growth, even if it skips a further easing on Thursday. "The risk is that ECB President Christine Lagarde strikes a dovish tone during her post-meeting press conference," said Commonwealth Bank of Australia currency analyst Joe Capurso. "If President Lagarde emphasises the downside risks facing the Eurozone economy, the counter-cyclical dollar can rise." Analysts also reckon that a Joe Biden victory next week, especially if the Democrats win control of the Senate, would likely herald a large U.S. stimulus package. But investors are treading carefully. "I think that the dollar is now as polarised as it gets," said Diego Parrilla, chief investment officer of Quadriga Igneo, a fund designed to profit in market turmoil. "On the one hand, we have a very clear will from the Fed and the U.S. government to print and borrow their way out of the problem," he said, weakening the outlook for the dollar. "But it's almost like the more consensus you get and the bigger the position, you will see also big reversals, and my personal view is that the dollar remains a good thing to own during periods of stress." Elsewhere, China's top leaders chart the country's economic course for 2021-2025 at a key meeting starting on Monday, and may adopt a lower or more flexible growth target. The yuan, which has soared more than 7% since May as China has led the world's recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, edged lower with the broader mood to 6.6852 per dollar. Later on Monday, investors are watching for a German sentiment survey at 0900 GMT, following a robust Purchasing Managers' Index figure last week, and U.S. housing data, due at 1400 GMT. ======================================================== Currency bid prices at 11:43AM (343 GMT) Description RIC Last U.S. Close Pct Change YTD Pct High Bid Low Bid Previous Change Session Euro/Dollar $1.1834 $1.1862 -0.24% +5.56% +1.1859 +1.1833 Dollar/Yen 104.8550 104.8000 +0.07% -3.44% +104.8850 +104.6750 Euro/Yen 124.08 124.19 -0.09% +1.75% +124.2200 +123.9800 Dollar/Swiss 0.9051 0.9040 +0.13% -6.46% +0.9053 +0.9044 Sterling/Dollar 1.3026 1.3039 -0.10% -1.79% +1.3062 +1.3026 Dollar/Canadian 1.3154 1.3124 +0.21% +1.23% +1.3161 +1.3123 Aussie/Dollar 0.7115 0.7137 -0.29% +1.42% +0.7142 +0.7116 NZ 0.6682 0.6692 -0.13% -0.68% +0.6694 +0.6677 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)