Tokyo August 23 2023: The U.S. dollar perched near a two-month peak on Wednesday as investors looked to the Federal Reserve chair's speech this week for cues on the path of monetary policy, while the yen loitered near 146 a dollar, keeping traders guessing on any intervention.
The dollar index , which measures the U.S. currency against six rivals, was at 103.55, not far from the two-month high of 103.71 it touched on Tuesday. The index is up 1.6% in August and is on course to snap its two-month losing streak.
The currency market is subdued amid a lull in summer volatility and ahead of the Fed's central bank symposium at Jackson Hole, Wyoming, this week, said currency strategist Christopher Wong at OCBC in Singapore.
With traders reluctant to place major bets, the spotlight is firmly on Fed Chair Jerome Powell's speech at the event, which is set for Aug. 24-26. Investors will parse through his words to gauge the Fed's monetary policy path.
A recent run of strong U.S. economic data has helped allay worries of an impending recession but with inflation still well above the Fed's target of 2%, investors are wary that the central bank may keep interest rates in a higher range for longer.
"Markets are looking out for hints of earlier (policy) shifts or extensions of higher for longer," said Wong.
Richmond Fed President Thomas Barkin on Tuesday said the Fed must be open to the possibility that the economy will begin to re-accelerate rather than slow, with potential implications for the U.S. central bank's inflation fight.
Markets are pricing in an 86% chance of the Fed standing pat at its policy meeting next month, the CME FedWatch tool showed, but the odds of the U.S. central bank hiking interest rates one more time this year toward the end of the year have been rising.
The potential for additional hikes after a likely pause at its September meeting, combined with a decrease in excess savings, could weaken consumer momentum toward the end of the year, said Saira Malik, CIO at Nuveen.
The yen strengthened 0.20% to 145.59 a dollar in Asian hours but was not far off the nine-month milestone of 146.565 touched last week, leaving traders on tenterhooks as they warily watch for any signs of intervention.
When the dollar broke above 145 yen that triggered intervention last year, speculation began mounting that Tokyo would soon step into the market to support its currency.
Atsushi Takeuchi, who was head of the Bank of Japan's foreign exchange division when Tokyo intervened in 2010-2012, said Japan will forgo intervening unless the yen moves past 150 and becomes a huge political headache for premier Fumio Kishida.
"Authorities usually don't have a specific line-in-the-sand in mind. But key thresholds like 150 are important for political reasons, as they are easy to understand," Takeuchi said.
In other currencies, the euro was up 0.07% to $1.0852, inching away from the two-month low of $1.0833 it touched overnight.
The Australian dollar rose 0.40% to $0.645, while the New Zealand dollar rose 0.29% to $0.596.
In cryptocurrencies, bitcoin last rose 0.77% to $26,049, having touched two-month low of $25,350 overnight.