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Dollar Rises on Hawkish Fed Policy Despite Easing Inflation

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Lauren Miller

June 14, 2024 - 13:00 pm

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Dollar Gains Amid Hawkish Fed Stance Despite Cooling Inflation

The dollar experienced an upward surge on Thursday, defying expectations set by a softer U.S. producer price inflation report for May. This movement came on the heels of the Federal Reserve's hawkish tone at the conclusion of its meeting on Wednesday, signaling a strong stance on monetary policy despite cooling inflation indicators.

Soft U.S. Producer Price Inflation Data

Thursday's data revealed an unexpected decline in U.S. producer prices for May. The headline producer price index (PPI) fell by 0.2% last month, following an unrevised 0.5% increase in April. Core prices remained flat, mirroring the 0.5% rise observed in the previous month. This unexpected drop in the PPI suggests a potential easing in inflationary pressures, contrary to what many had anticipated.

Softer Than Expected Consumer Price Index

Prior to the PPI release, May's U.S. consumer price index (CPI) had already shown a softer performance than economists had forecasted. This softer CPI prompted a sharp sell-off in the greenback, reflecting market reactions to the possibility of slowing inflation. The combined effect of the CPI and PPI reports indicates a likely softening of the Personal Consumption Expenditures (PCE), the Federal Reserve's preferred measure of inflation.

Market Reactions and Expert Opinions

Marc Chandler, chief market strategist at Bannockburn Global Forex in New York, commented on the implications of the recent data releases. He noted that the softer PPI, following the unexpected CPI, would likely influence the core PCE deflator due at the end of the month. However, despite these signs of easing inflation, the optimism wasn't sufficient to keep the dollar subdued.

Fed's Unexpectedly Hawkish Forecast

The U.S. dollar rebounded strongly after Federal Reserve officials forecasted only one interest rate cut for the year, with potential delays extending as far as December. Fed Chair Jerome Powell emphasized the Federal Reserve's readiness to maintain current rates until more definitive economic signals emerge, either through a marked decrease in price pressures or a rise in the unemployment rate. This stance reflects a cautious approach, prioritizing economic stability over aggressive monetary easing.

Dollar Index Performance

Following these developments, the dollar index saw a significant rise, reaching 105.20, up 0.53%. Earlier in the week, it had hit a four-week high of 105.46 before dipping nearly 1% after the CPI data release. Fiona Cincotta, a market strategist at City Index, explained that the initial reaction to the CPI data was somewhat overdone, driven by relief that the figures weren't worse than expected, leading to a strong, albeit brief, market reaction.

Shifts in Fed Rate Cut Bets

Market sentiments around the Federal Reserve's rate cuts have fluctuated. After the May employment report showed stronger job growth and wage increases than anticipated, traders reduced bets on a September rate cut. However, these bets were revived following the CPI report. According to the CME Group’s FedWatch Tool, Fed funds futures traders now see a high likelihood of two rate cuts this year, with a 66% probability of the first cut occurring in September.

Fed Policy Versus International Central Banks

The dollar is expected to remain strong as the Federal Reserve's policy contrasts with the more dovish stances of other international central banks. Marc Chandler expressed skepticism that the dollar has reached its peak, citing ongoing policy divergence as a supporting factor. While the European Central Bank and the Bank of Canada have begun rate cuts and may continue to do so before the Fed starts easing, the dollar could stay resilient.

European Political Uncertainty and the Euro

Political uncertainty in Europe is also influencing the euro's performance against the dollar. The recent European Parliament elections saw far-right parties gaining ground, prompting French President Emmanuel Macron to call for a snap election. This political instability has contributed to the euro's decline. On Thursday, the euro fell by 0.60% to $1.0742, having reached its lowest point since May 2 earlier in the week before recovering slightly as the dollar weakened.

Bank of Japan's Monetary Policy and the Yen

The yen has been particularly affected by the divergence in interest rates between Japan and the U.S. As the Bank of Japan concluded its two-day meeting on Friday, considerations around trimming bond buying and reducing its nearly $5 trillion balance sheet came to the forefront. The yen fell in response, with the dollar last seen up 0.16% at 156.96 yen. This highlights the yen's sensitivity to shifts in monetary policy and interest rate differentials.

Conclusion

In summary, the dollar's recent gains reflect a complex interplay of economic data, central bank policies, and global market reactions. Despite softer inflation indicators, the Federal Reserve's hawkish stance has reinforced the dollar's strength. As market participants adjust their expectations for future rate cuts, the dollar's performance will continue to be influenced by the evolving economic landscape and international monetary policies. The ongoing political uncertainty in Europe and differing central bank strategies will also play crucial roles in shaping currency movements in the coming months.