TOKYO (Japan): The dollar was on the back foot against the safe-haven yen and Swiss franc on Tuesday after soft US manufacturing data and rising concerns about the coronavirus Delta variant prompted traders to wind back bets on a strong economic recovery.
The Australian dollar spiked higher after the Reserve Bank of Australia stuck with its plan to taper its bond-buying programme, shrugging off concerns about economic impacts of rising coronavirus cases.
The dollar slipped 0.15% to 109.16 yen, near its July 19 low of 109.07, which was its lowest level since late May. Against the Swiss franc, the dollar traded at 0.9054 franc, having hit a 1-1/2-month low of 0.9038 in the previous session.
The euro was subdued at $1.1880, having lost a bit of momentum after hitting a one-month high of $1.1909 on Friday while sterling slipped to $1.3889 from Friday’s one-month high of $1.39835.
“The market is moderately risk-off with bond yields falling off a bit since European trade yesterday. There is some caution as the Delta variant is spreading in many places, even in China,” said Yukio Ishizuki, senior strategist at Daiwa Securities.
The U.S. yield dropped on Monday shortly after an Institute for Supply Management (ISM) report showed July U.S. manufacturing growth slowed for the second straight month.
“From a historic perspective a 59.5 manufacturing ISM reading is still a very robust activity reading. Nevertheless reaction to the data release by the U.S. Treasuries market suggests the market is concerned over ‘peak growth’ and the potential for more slowdown ahead,” wrote Rodrigo Catril, senior FX strategist at National Australia Bank in Sydney.
Clouding the outlook further is the spread of Delta variant.
In the United States, COVID hospitalisations in Louisiana and Florida have surged to their highest points of the pandemic, though the country’s top health expert, Anthony Fauci, ruled out another lockdown in the country.
That outweighed any excitement over a $1 trillion infrastructure investment bill that could be ready for a final vote as early as this week.
“At the end of the day, there’s nothing we can do but wait and see how the spread of Delta will or will not change the Federal Reserve’s policy stance,” said Kazushige Kaida, head of FX sales at State Street Bank’s Tokyo branch.
The Delta variant, which U.S. authorities on Monday described as contagious as chickenpox, is raging in many Asian countries once thought as successful in containing the disease.
Japan expanded state of emergency curbs to more regions on Monday as cases hit record in Tokyo while in China the Delta variant spreads from the coast to inland cities, posing new risks for the world’s second-biggest economy.
Australia’s Queensland state on Monday extended a COVID-19 lockdown in Brisbane, while soldiers began patrolling Sydney to enforce stay-at-home rules.
The Reserve Bank of Australia, however, stayed on course, saying tapering of its bond buying will go ahead in September as signalled in its previous policy review last month.
That lifted the Australian dollar 0.5% to $0.7400 as some investors had expected it delay its action.
The New Zealand dollar rose 0.6% to $0.7007 also as the country’s central bank said on Tuesday it would soon begin consulting on ways to tighten mortgage lending standards, as it looks to control an inflated housing market and protect home buyers.