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Dollar drifts after soft inflation, Chinese data weighs on Asian currencies

The dollar held recent ranges against peers on Wednesday after softer-than-expected U.S. inflation figures tempered immediate expectations about Federal Reserve tapering while disappointing Chinese data weighed on the yuan and Aussie.

The dollar index =USD stood at 92.632, little changed from Tuesday, when it dropped following the inflation data only to recover on haven demand as stocks slid on Wall Street.

The index has meandered between 92.3 and 92.9 over the past week as several Fed officials have suggested the U.S. central bank could reduce its buying of debt securities by the end of the year, even after a much-weaker-than-expected payrolls report at the start of the month.

While elevated inflation has kept pressure on policymakers, data overnight showed the U.S. consumer price index, excluding the volatile food and energy components, edged up just 0.1% last month.

The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) holds its monetary policy meeting next week, with investors keen to find out whether a tapering announcement will be made.

Tapering tends to benefit the dollar as it suggests the Fed is one step closer toward tighter monetary policy. It also means the central bank will be buying fewer debt assets, effectively reducing the number of dollars in circulation.

“The softer print eases concerns over an imminent acceleration in prices and should nullify any lingering pressure on the Fed to taper in September,” Rodrigo Catril, a senior currency strategist at National Australia Bank, wrote in a client note.

“But a taper this year still looks like a good bet, with November or December now looking more likely.”

Even so, NAB predicts that the focus of global growth is shifting away from the United States, pushing the currency down to $1.23 versus the euro EUR=EBS by year-end.

One euro bought $1.1808 on Wednesday, mostly flat from the previous session.

European Central Bank Chief Economist Philip Lane speaks at the IMFS webinar later in the global day.

The dollar slipped slightly to 109.595 yen JPY=EBS, keeping close to the centre of the trading range of the past two months.

Commonwealth Bank of Australia is more bullish on the dollar’s prospects, predicting that accelerating employment costs in the United States will keep consumer prices elevated.

“Above‑target inflation will prove more persistent than the FOMC expects,” Carol Kong, a strategist at CBA, wrote in a report.

“The implication is the FOMC will likely need to raise the Funds rate by more than what markets are currently expecting, which could support the USD down the track.”

Meanwhile, the yuan CNY=CFXS and the Australian dollar AUD=D3 were knocked lower after Chinese data showed factory and retail sales growth cooled more sharply than expected last month.

Adding to the broader China worries in financial markets was a media report that embattled property developer China Evergrande Group 3333.HK won’t be able to make interest payments on its debt next week.

The yuan extended its decline for the day to as far as 6.4433 yuan per dollar before trading about 0.1% weaker at 6.4410, threatening to snap a five-day string of gains.

The Aussie sank as low as $0.73015 for the first time in more than two weeks following China’s data, but recovered to be little changed at $0.7320.
Source: Reuters (Reporting by Kevin Buckland; Editing by Sam Holmes)

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