Dollar Holds Firm As Virus Restrictions In Asia Unnerve Investors

Dollar inches higher, commodity currencies drop * Yuan falls after mixed Chinese data * Graphic: World FX rates (Adds new analyst quote, details, latest prices)

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The dollar held above recent lows on Monday as new COVID-19 restrictions in Asia and mixed economic data in China encouraged investors to stick with safer currencies, while a pullback in commodity prices whacked the Australian and New Zealand dollars.

Bitcoin skidded to a three-month low after Tesla Inc boss Elon Musk suggested at the weekend that the car maker was considering selling or may have already sold some of its holdings in the cryptocurrency. It later recovered slightly.

Easing commodity prices and fresh virus outbreaks in Singapore and Taiwan – where COVID-19 had been contained – helped the dollar.

The Australian dollar fell half a percent to 0.7741 while the New Zealand dollar weakened 0.8% to 0.7193.

The Norwegian crown, which is highly sensitive to oil prices, fell, with the euro adding 0.9% to 10.06 crowns .

The Singapore and Taiwan dollars also dropped, the latter by more than half a percent before recovering some of those losses.

The greenback was little moved against the euro, at $1.2143, and the yen, at 109.19, but it remained above the recent lows hit before higher-than-expected U.S. inflation data last week.

While investor nervousness supported the dollar on Monday, analysts generally expect the greenback to weaken as investors bet on a further rebound in other economies as they reopen.

“The macro agenda this week might allow both the EUR and the GBP to regain further ground against the USD, should preliminary PMI surveys for May, to be released in both areas, offer further signs of optimism, especially in the service indices,” said UniCredit analysts, referring to Purchasing Manager Index survey data due out on Friday.

Fed minutes, from an April meeting that predated the inflation data surprise last week, are due on Wednesday and are the next market focus for clues on the central bank’s thinking.

Speculators increased their bets against the dollar last week, mostly by adding to bets on the euro and to a lesser extent sterling.

The pound held near a two-and-a-half-month high, at $1.4095, as Britain on Monday took a significant step in reopening its economy after a four-month lockdown.

The offshore yuan slipped slightly to 6.4471 per dollar after a mixed round of economic data showed China’s industrial output had slowed and retail sales missed forecasts last month.

“The softer (Chinese) activity data poses some modest downside risks for commodity-related and emerging market currencies, although the negative impact should be limited at the current juncture with commodity prices continuing to trade close to multi-year highs,” said MUFG currency analyst Lee Hardman.

– Reuters

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