Dollar in doldrums amid Ukraine hopes, traders weigh Fed's rate plans



By Kevin Buckland

TOKYO, March 18 (Reuters) - The U.S. dollar headed for its first down week in six versus major peers on Friday, languishing near a one-week low, as investors continued to assess the impact of the start of the Federal Reserve's rate tightening cycle this week.

The safe-haven greenback also lost traction - while the euro benefited - as traders stayed optimistic for an end to the war in Ukraine as talks continued between Moscow and Kyiv, although progress on Thursday was elusive.

Sentiment also improved after Russia avoided default on dollar-denominated debt.

A phone call between U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping later on Friday, with the U.S. warning China not to provide support to Russia, added a further layer of geopolitical risk.

Meanwhile, sterling ticked higher and remained on track for its first winning week in four, overcoming the hiccup from the Bank of England's dovish comments after raising rates for a third consecutive meeting on Thursday.

The yen remained near a six-year low after the Bank of Japan left its ultra-accommodative policy settings unchanged on Friday, as widely expected, leaving it an outlier among developed-world central banks which are exiting pandemic emergency measures.

"A more favourable diplomatic backdrop between Russia-Ukraine appears to developing and there's more (dollar index) downside to be had if momentum moves toward a ceasefire," Westpac strategists wrote in a client note.

However, the index still looks headed to 100 and above as the Fed's hiking cycle progresses, they said.

The dollar index =USD paused for breath on Friday, standing at 98.104 after declining every other day this week, and set for a 1.03% loss over the period. It slipped to 97.724 on Thursday for the first time since March 10.

The dips came despite the Federal Open Market Committee raising rates on Wednesday and signalling the equivalent of a quarter-point increase at each of its six remaining policy meetings this year, leaving investors racing to work out how much monetary tightening the economy can handle.

"A well-worn market axiom, that says sell USD on the first Fed rate hike, is circulating with added momentum after USD's failure to rally in the wake of this week's indisputably hawkish FOMC," TD Securities analysts noted in a research report.

Meanwhile, the continuation of peace talks even as fighting still rages in Ukraine has seen demand for safe havens like the dollar dry up, while the euro has rebounded from last week's nearly two-year trough, on track for its first weekly gain since the start of last month.

The single currency EUR=EBS was slightly weaker at $1.10795 on Friday, but up 1.60% for the week, its first winning week in six.

Sterling GBP=D3 added 0.05% to $1.31525, putting it on track for a 0.87% weekly advance, despite the BoE softening its language around the need for future rate hikes to "might be appropriate" from "likely to be appropriate."

The risk-sensitive Australian dollar AUD=D3 was little changed at $0.73725, putting it on track for a 1.08% weekly advance. That would make it six winning weeks out of the past seven, after notching a 1.07% decline last week.

The yen JPY=EBS weakened 0.14% to 118.775 per dollar, not far from a six-year trough of 119.13 reached Wednesday, and was on course for a 1.24% weekly decline, following a 2.26% slump the previous period, which was its worst in two years.



World FX rates Link



Reporting by Kevin Buckland; Editing by Gerry Doyle and Kim
Coghill

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