By Stanley White
TOKYO (Reuters) – The dollar held onto gains against major currencies on Thursday after U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell dismissed speculation that policymakers will adopt negative interest rates.
The Australian dollar was under pressure before closely-watched data on the jobs market, which may help determine how much more monetary and fiscal easing is necessary to support the economy.
The focus will shift to economic data from the United States and Europe in the next two days for more clues on the depth of the downturns there, while investors will closely watch China activity gauges for signs on how long it may take to emerge from the sharp shock caused by the coronavirus outbreak.
“The dollar managed to bounce back after Powell’s comments on negative rates, but now the dollar’s bias is fairly neutral,” said Takuya Kanda, general manager of the research department at Gaitame.com Research Institute in Tokyo.
“There could be some safe-have flows into the dollar, but everyone is facing the same economic problems caused by the coronavirus.”
The dollar traded at $1.0818 against the euro () on Thursday following a 0.3% gain in the previous session.
Against the pound
The dollar bought 0.9722 Swiss franc
The greenback was little changed at 106.91 yen
Powell became the latest in a parade of policymakers to brush off the notion that they might push rates into negative territory, after Fed futures began pricing a small chance of sub-zero U.S. rates within the next year.
“The committee’s view on negative rates really has not changed. This is not something that we are looking at,” Powell said on Wednesday, referring to the Fed’s policy-setting Federal Open Market Committee.
Powell spoke in response to a question after offering a sobering assessment of U.S. economic outlook in a closely-watched speech.
The United States and other countries are easing restrictions to allow factories and shops to open again for business, but there are significant risks of a second wave of infections and a full-fledged economic recovery is likely to remain distant until a vaccine for the coronavirus is available.
U.S. data on weekly jobless claims due later Thursday and a survey on U.S. manufacturing due Friday should offer more clues about the economic outlook.
The Australian dollar
Across the Tasman Sea (NYSE:), the New Zealand dollar
New Zealand’s government is expected to present its budget later today, which will offer fiscal stimulus to offset the economic damage caused by the pandemic.
Many investors await China’s release on Friday of data on industrial production, retail sales and investment to measure how quickly the world’s second-largest economy is recovering from its first contraction in decades in the first quarter.
The novel coronavirus first emerged in China late last year and has since spread across the globe, paralysing economic activity.
Traders in the euro are also focused on the release of preliminary first-quarter gross domestic product data on Friday to assess the scale of the damage caused by the outbreak.