Dollar dips in choppy trading as risk appetite improves

By John McCrank

NEW YORK (Reuters) -The dollar was slightly lower on Thursday in choppy trading, having erased most of its early session losses, as investors bet the Federal Reserve would begin tapering its asset purchases next month and attention turned to the timing of interest rate hikes.

The greenback had rallied since early September on expectations the U.S. central bank would tighten monetary policy more quickly than previously expected amid an improving economy and surging inflation.

But the dollar reversed course on Wednesday, even after the minutes of the Fed’s Sept. 21-22 policy meeting confirmed the tapering of stimulus is likely to start this year and data showed that pricing pressures were still hitting U.S. consumers.

“I think what we’ve seen over the last day or two is a little bit of profit-taking,” said Shaun Osborne, chief FX strategist at Scotia Capital.

“I don’t think this is, at the moment, anything close to a significant reversal in the dollar trend, and in fact, I think what we’ve seen today might be a sign that the corrective rebound that we’ve seen over the past day or two has perhaps run its course,” he said.

The market is expecting that the Fed will begin tapering its asset purchases as early as next month, and that the wind-down of the massive bond-buying program will happen fairly quickly, Osborne added.

“That seems to be advancing to some extent towards when and how quickly the Fed is going to raise interest rates, so that’s another potential positive for the dollar,” he said.

At 3:25 p.m. EDT, the dollar index was down 0.036% at 93.982, having climbed back from a 10-day low of 93.754 earlier in the session. On Tuesday, the greenback hit a one-year high of 94.563.

The euro was flat against the dollar, at $1.15955, falling from a nine-day high reached overnight, while the British pound was up 0.15% against the dollar, at $1.36815.

A return in risk appetite may also have dented demand for the safe-haven greenback, with U.S. equity markets notching solid gains on upbeat earnings, said Vassili Serebriakov, FX and macro strategist at UBS.

Data on Thursday showed the number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits fell sharply last week to the lowest level since mid-March 2020.

In another report, the Labor Department said its producer price index for final demand rose, but the increase was less than economists polled by Reuters expected, both on a monthly and a year-on-year basis.

The Australian dollar, which is seen as a liquid proxy for risk appetite, was up 0.47% versus the dollar at $0.7414, its highest level since Sept. 7.

The New Zealand dollar also rose, up 0.93% at $0.7030, its highest mark in 2-1/2 weeks.

Elsewhere, the cryptocurrency bitcoin was up 0.13% at $57,451. It hit a five-month high of $58,550 earlier in the session.

(Reporting by John McCrank in New York; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise, Kim Coghill and Paul Simao)