By Herbert Lash
NEW YORK (Reuters) -The dollar slid on Friday after Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell indicated in a highly anticipated speech that the U.S. central bank could start tapering its massive support to the economy could start by year’s end, which was not as fast as many in the market had assumed.
Powell said there had been clear progress toward maximum employment and he believed that if the U.S. economy improved as anticipated, “it could be appropriate to start reducing the pace of asset purchases this year.”
But Powell told the Fed’s annual Jackson Hole symposium the timing and pace of tapering should not be construed as a signal for when interest rates will begin to rise. The speech showed Powell has not adopted the hawkish stance of some Fed officials, said Gregory Anderson, global head of FX strategy at BMO Capital Markets.
“It’s pretty clear that if you were worried about the timeline, that we announce in September that we’re going to taper starting Oct. 1, that’s not there in this speech,” Anderson said.
“It’s not as bad as feared based on the most extreme of the hawks,” he added.
The dollar index, which measures the greenback’s performance against a basket of six major currencies, fell 0.39% to 92.6760.
The euro rose 0.37% to $1.1794, while the yen fell 0.24% at $109.8200.
After minutes of the Fed’s policy-setting meeting in July were released last week, the dollar advanced because most market participants anticipated tapering to begin this year.
Powell was clear to detach tapering from “the rate liftoff,” or raising interest rates, said David Petrosinelli, senior trader at Insperex in New York. “He was very clear to delineate that.”
The dollar fell as market participants sharply lowered expectations for the Fed’s long-term tightening trajectory, said Karl Schamotta, director Of global product and market strategy at Cambridge Global Payments (NYSE:GPN) in Toronto.
The dollar began to retreat about 15 minutes before Powell spoke, after James Bullard, president of the St. Louis Fed, reiterated his hawkish view that tapering should begin soon and end by next year’s first quarter. [nS0N2O301G}
Benchmark 10-year Treasury yields fell 3.4 basis points to trade at 1.3104%. On Thursday yields jumped to 1.375%, the highest since Aug. 12.
The New Zealand dollar dipped slightly after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that a lockdown against COVID-19 in Auckland is likely to remain in place for another two weeks.
The Swedish crown was flat at 8.7070 after mixed economic data.
The Canadian dollar rose 0.56% to 1.2612 versus the U.S. dollar. Brent futures, the international benchmark for crude, rose $1.63 to settle at $72.70 a barrel and gained 11.5% for the week.
Marc Chandler, managing director at BK Asset Management, said the Canadian currency generally takes its cues from oil, risk with the S&P 500 as a proxy and interest rate differentials.
“The Canadian dollar’s strength today is a reflection not so much of Canada, but what’s happening in the U.S. and the market takeaway from Powell’s speech,” Chandler said.