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Euro holds firm as investors await ECB meeting, U.S. inflation data

By Alun John

HONG KONG (Reuters) – The euro held most of its overnight gains on Thursday, having posted its steepest daily jump in nearly six years after a meeting between Ukraine’s and Russia’s foreign ministers and easing oil prices took some of the recent panic out of markets.

Traders are waiting on a European Central Bank meeting later in the day for any signs on how Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will affect monetary policy. U.S. inflation figures are also due, which could further guide expectations for the Federal Reserve’s meeting next week.

The euro was trading at $1.1053, down 0.2% after jumping 1.6% on Wednesday, its best day since June 2016, along with gains in European stocks and a selloff in bonds.

The common currency touched a 22-month low of $1.0804 earlier in the week, weighed down by the impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on European growth.

Analysts at NAB attributed Wednesday’s gains to some optimism ahead of Thursday’s meeting between Russia and Ukraine’s foreign ministers – the first since Russia invaded Ukraine two weeks ago – and reports that the European Union was discussing bond issuance to finance energy and defence spending.

Ukraine’s foreign minister warned however, that his expectations of the talks are low.

Russia calls its actions in Ukraine a “special operation”.

Elsewhere, sterling was steady at $1.3172 after jumping 0.65% overnight along with the euro, while the safe-haven yen was at 116.12 per dollar, its lowest in a month, hurt by a rise in sentiment towards riskier assets like equities.

Asian stocks rallied on Thursday, echoing overnight gains on Wall Street where a tumble in oil prices sent equities higher.

This also provided a boost to the risk sensitive Australian dollar, which was last at $0.732 after jumping 0.7% on Wednesday.

The dollar index was at 98.127


But Thursday’s major events are yet to come. Investors will be closely watching ECB President Christine Lagarde’s press conference following the central bank’s policy meeting, waiting to see how the ECB balances the risk of higher inflation and weaker European economic growth caused by the war.

“Because of the conflict, the ECB doesn’t have a lot of foresight on where the Eurozone economies will be in six to 12 months so will probably step back a little bit to survey the situation,” said Kyle Rodda an analyst at IG markets.

Also on the agenda is the U.S. Consumer Price Index. Economists polled by Reuters forecast CPI to have climbed 7.9% on a year-on-year basis in February, up from 7.5% in January, although this data will only show a preliminary impact from the surge in oil prices caused by the conflict.

“Inflation tonight is really interesting. If we start seeing something with an eight in front of it, it changes the conversation,” said Rodda.

“Markets will wonder whether the Fed won’t be able to afford to take its foot off the accelerator when it comes to raising rates because of the stress in financial markets around this conflict, and that throws up huge risks for markets.”

While the Fed is widely expected to raise its benchmark overnight interest rate by a quarter of a percentage point at its meeting next week, growing calls before the war for a larger half a percentage point rise have quietened.

Source : Reuters

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