Home Forex News US dollar surges to new 34-year high vs yen after hotter-than-expected inflation data

US dollar surges to new 34-year high vs yen after hotter-than-expected inflation data


By Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss

NEW YORK (Reuters) -The dollar rose across the board on Wednesday, soaring against the Japanese yen to its highest since mid-1990, after U.S. inflation rose more than expected in March, pushing out the expected timing of a first rate cut to September from June.

Market participants were also on the alert for any signs of intervention from Japanese authorities to boost the yen.

The big move in the yen came after data showed the U.S. consumer price index (CPI) rose 0.4% on a monthly basis in March, compared with the 0.3% increase expected by economists polled by Reuters. On a year-on-year basis, the CPI increased 3.5% versus forecasts of a 3.4% growth.

Excluding the volatile food and energy components, core inflation grew 0.4% month-on-month in March, compared with expectations of a 0.3% advance. Annually, it gained 3.8%, versus the estimated 3.7% increase.

Following the CPI data, traders slashed bets that the Federal Reserve would cut interest rates in June to 17%, from 57% late on Tuesday, according to the CME’s FedWatch tool. They now see the likelihood of an interest rate cut at the September meeting, with a 66% probability, based on prices of rate futures.

Fed fund futures have also reduced the number of rate cuts of 25 basis points (bps) this year to under two, or roughly 44 bps, from about three or four a few weeks ago.

“The core rate of inflation has accelerated four months in a row. … Maybe you get some moderation later in the year but given the fact you’re starting from a higher rate, you’re going to need real weak numbers and more time to be convinced that inflation is trending back down after what appeared to be the case last fall,” said Joseph Lavorgna, chief U.S. economist, at SMBC Nikko Securities in New York.

“What that means is the timing of Fed easing is going to get pushed out,” Lavorgna added.

In afternoon trading, the dollar index, which measures the greenback’s value against six major currencies, was up 1.07% at 105.20, on track for its largest daily gain since March 2023. Earlier, it climbed to its highest since November.

Minutes of the last Fed meeting released on Wednesday suggested that central bank officials were worried that the progress on inflation slowed and they may have to keep interest rates higher for longer.

“The Fed has no reason to cut rates when we are still battling inflation – that’s the realization,” said Kenneth Mahoney, president at Mahoney Asset Management in Greenwich, Connecticut.

The euro, meanwhile, fell 1.06% to $1.0741, on pace for its biggest one-day fall in about a year.

Against the yen, the dollar was last up 0.93% from late Tuesday at 153.15 yen, having touched 153.24, the highest since June 1990.

Traders have been on alert for weeks for possible intervention by Tokyo authorities, as even a historic exit from negative rates in Japan has failed to lift the currency.

Japan intervened in the currency market three times in 2022, selling the dollar to buy yen, first in September and again in October as the yen slid toward what was then a 32-year low of 152 to the dollar.

The yen has been under pressure for years as U.S. interest rates have climbed and Japan’s have stayed near zero, driving cash out of yen and into dollars to earn so-called “carry.”

Yen futures data from CFTC showed non-commercial short positions had climbed to 143,230 contracts in the week ended April 2, the largest since December 2013.

“I would say there is a 30% chance of Japanese intervention this month. That move today, that quick move down, it just seems a bad time to fight it,” said Adam Button, chief currency analyst at FOREXLIVE.

“Japan doesn’t want the yen to weaken further, but this is fundamental move of broad U.S. dollar strength. I don’t see the argument for fighting this move from Japan right now, it’s not a yen move, it’s a broad U.S. dollar move,” Button added.

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