The dollar held onto gains against major currencies made after the Federal Reserve refrained from offering new stimulus, leaving global investors focused on a European Central Bank meeting later on Thursday for any action that could revive their appetite for risk.
There has been speculation that the ECB could reactivate its bond buying programme in order to bring down borrowing costs for Italy and Spain to head off a brewing debt crisis.
The Fed’s inaction was largely expected. The dollar had climbed on Wednesday even as the Fed kept the door ajar for further bond-buying to help spur a sluggish economic recovery, a move that would cement the dollar’s status as a funding currency of choice for carry trades.
Markets are anxiously waiting to see if ECB President Mario Draghi will back up his vow to do whatever it takes to protect the euro with serious action.
“It’s really difficult to see how they are going to live up to the market’s expectations,” said Mitul Kotecha, head of global foreign exchange strategy for Credit Agricole in Hong Kong.
Resistance from Germany’s powerful Bundesbank has cast doubt on whether the ECB will reactivate its bond-buying programme, and even if they do, it is unclear whether such bond buying would begin immediately.
The euro edged up 0.2 percent to $1.2247, but remained well below Wednesday’s high of $1.2337.
The dollar held steady against the yen at 78.46 yen, staying above a two-month low of 77.90 yen hit on trading platform EBS on Wednesday.
The dollar index, which tracks the dollar’s value against a basket of major currencies stood at 83.026, having hit a one-week high of 83.169 earlier on Thursday.
A Munich-based daily said Draghi is planning concerted action using both the ECB and the future euro European Stability Mechanism (ESM) to purchase sovereign debt from Spain or Italy in order to help push down borrowing rates for those two countries. The newspaper added, however, that a final decision is not expected until after Sept. 12, after the German Constitutional Court rules on the ESM.
Analysts at Barclays Capital expect the ECB to disappoint markets. “The most likely outcome is that the ECB will not announce any significant policy change,” analyst Guillermo Felices wrote in a client note.
“Rather, we think it likely that President Draghi’s statement will signal that they are ready to act, using a range of tools at their disposal, if conditions deemed it necessary,” Felices said, adding concrete measures are more likely at the September meeting.
Strong action by the ECB would give high-beta currencies like the Australian dollar, relatively volatile currencies that are sensitive to shifts in broader market sentiment, a new lease on life.
The Australian dollar rose 0.2 percent to $1.0479, getting a slight lift after data showed Australian retail sales rose a surprisingly strong 1.0 percent in June, suggesting no urgent need for further policy easing by Australia’s central bank.