Dollar Up, Rouble Steadies but Focus Still on Ukraine Conflict

By Gina Lee – The dollar was up on Tuesday morning in Asia. The rouble steadied somewhat after crashing to a record low, while the safe-haven yen steadied after its biggest rallies in almost seven weeks. However, investors’ focus remains on the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The U.S. Dollar Index Futures that tracks the greenback against a basket of other currencies edged up 0.16% to 96.847 by 10:04 PM ET (3:04 AM GMT).

The USD/JPY pair edged up 0.14% to 115.16.

The AUD/USD pair inched down 0.01% to 0.7261, with the risk-sensitive Australian dollar trading at a nearly one-week high. The Reserve Bank of Australia will hand down its policy decision later in the day. The NZD/USD pair inched up 0.01% to 0.6760.

The USD/CNY pair inched up 0.03% to 6.3115. Chinese data released earlier in the day showed that the manufacturing purchasing managers index (PMI) for February was 50.2, while the non-manufacturing PMI was 51.6 and the Caixin manufacturing PMI was 50.4.

The GBP/USD pair inched down 0.03% to 1.3435.

Currency markets calmed down somewhat after Russian and Ukrainian officials held the first round of ceasefire talks. The rouble also regained some of its dramatic losses earlier in the week, when it plunged as much as 30%. However, the pressure on Russia remains with the West slapping sanctions and cutting some Russian banks from the global SWIFT network.

The Central Bank of the Russian Federation (Bank of Russia) implemented an emergency interest rate hike of 20% and other measures. The rouble last traded at 102.

Currency volatility was at its highest in 14 months on Monday, according to a Deutsche Bank (DE:DBKGn) index.

“News from Ukraine remains bleak, with Russia-Ukraine talks yielding no resolution. Fighting rages on as the West looks to increase efforts to isolate Russia,” National Australia Bank Ltd. senior foreign-exchange strategist Rodrigo Catril said in a note.

The instability will keep safe-haven currencies bid and euro under pressure, while the Australian dollar has so far held up due to higher commodity prices and Australia’s geographic distance from the conflict, the note added.

U.S. benchmark 10-year yields retreated to an almost one-month low overnight, which weighed on the dollar. Investors sought the safety of Treasuries, even as the U.S. Federal Reserve is poised to hike interest rates at its policy meeting in March 2022.

The crisis in Ukraine has also induced investors to reduce bets for a Fed 50 basis-point rate hike to just 8.5%, according to CME’s Fedwatch tool. Atlanta Fed President Raphael Bostic on Monday said that he is not excluding a half-point move.

“The bottom line is, do not write off a 50bp increase,” Commonwealth Bank Of Australia strategist Joseph Capurso said in his own note, warning that market pricing had gotten too low.

“The near-term trends in the USD will be dominated by the war, but the medium-term trends in the USD will be determined by the economic data,” said the note.

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