Dollar near 20-year highs amid global markets rout

Dollar near 20-year highs amid global markets rout
Dollar near 20-year highs amid global markets rout
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Euro, Hong Kong dollar, U.S. dollar, Japanese yen, pound and Chinese 100 yuan banknotes are seen in this picture illustration, January 21, 2016. REUTERS/Jason Lee

By Iain Withers

LONDON (Reuters) – The hovered near 20-year highs against major peers on Friday, as market sell-offs in the face of global recession fears propped up the safe haven currency.

European stocks opened lower and were heading for their worst week in two months, following a rout on Wall Street.

The U.S. currency has stood tall on expectations the Federal Reserve will tighten monetary policy faster than peers to stem runaway inflation.

A closely-watched U.S. jobs report due later on Friday could strengthen the case for aggressive tightening, analysts said.

Economists predict a solid 391,000 U.S. jobs were added last month, according to a Reuters poll.

The dollar index, which tracks its performance against a basket of six major rivals, gained as much as 0.5% in early European trading hours to hit a fresh 20-year high of 104.07.

But it later lost ground in choppy trade, and was last broadly flat at 103.55. It appeared touch and go whether the index would record a fifth straight week of gains, up 0.3% on the week.

The Fed raised rates by half a percentage point on Wednesday – the biggest jump in 22 years – but the dollar temporarily cooled on Fed Chair Jerome Powell comments that policymakers were not actively considering 75 basis point hikes in future.

“Financial market conditions will have to get tighter in order to alter central bank thinking on inflation risks and hence the US dollar is set to remain on a strengthening path for now,” currency analysts at MUFG said in a note.

The euro lost as much as 0.5% against the dollar in early European trading hours, before reversing course. It was last up 0.2% at $1.05555.

Sterling was broadly flat after earlier dropping below $1.23 for the first time in nearly two years, a day after the Bank of England sent a stark warning that Britain risks a double-whammy of a recession and inflation above 10%.

The BoE also joined the Fed in raising rates, hiking them by a quarter of a percentage point to 1%.

The yen fell back slightly against the dollar, down 0.2% to 130.46 yen per dollar.

In cryptocurrencies, bitcoin weakened slightly to trade just above $36,000.

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