The US dollar traded near a 4آ½-year high against its major counterparts last week, as mostly positive US data continued to support the greenback and comments by European Central Bank President Mario Draghi dented risk sentiment, according to a National Bank of Kuwait (NBK) report.
Minutes from the Federal Reserve's previous monetary policy meeting signaled that members of the Fed are starting to acknowledge improvements in the economy, further pushing the currency higher against its counterparts, the report showed.
FOMC meeting minutes indicate that the Fed is focusing on inflation, and monetary authorities spent their most recent policy meeting agreeing that the economy was improving and no longer needed stimulus tools such as asset purchases, though concerns persisted that inflation expectations may be dipping, the minutes of the Federal Reserve's October policy meeting revealed last week, it said.
While the economy is improving, some monetary authorities want to be sure recovery remains sustained before raising interest rates, which is expected to take place in mid-2015, with a few voting members expressing concerns that inflationary pressures remain soft. Markets rose on the news, as investors interpreted the minutes as a sign the Fed is aware the economy is improving but remains wary of raising interest rates too soon, the NBK report added.
The cost of living in the US changed slightly in October, reflecting a drop in energy prices that has yet to filter through to other goods and services. No change in the consumer-price index followed a 0.1 percent gain the prior month versus expectations for a 0.1 percent drop. Excluding volatile food and fuel, the so-called core measure rose 0.2 percent, the most in five months, it noted.
In Euro zone, manufacturing activity in the Euro zone expanded at a slower rate than expected in November, underling concerns over the region's growth outlook, preliminary data showed last week, it indicated.
In the UK, minutes from the Bank of England's most recent policy meeting released Wednesday showed that the Monetary Policy Committee voted 7-2 to keep rates on hold and its quantitative-easing program unchanged.
The minutes show seven members were in favor of leaving the key interest rate at a record low of 0.5 percent and making no changes to the central bank's GBP 375 billion asset-purchase program. However, dissenting members Martin Weale and Ian McCafferty voted for a 0.25 percent hike in the benchmark rate to 0.75 percent for the fourth consecutive meeting.
The minutes said that policymakers see a small chance of inflation expectations drifting lower and that there is a risk slack may soon be exhausted, boosting CPI pressure. While the minutes also cited threats to the recovery from the Euro area and the UK housing market, it said business investment growth was "buoyant" and there were signs that wage growth was picking up, the NBK's report added.
Consumer price inflation in the UK rose unexpectedly in October, after slowing to a five-year low one month earlier. The UK Office for National Statistics said the rate of consumer price inflation accelerated to a seasonally adjusted 1.3 percent last month from 1.2 percent in September, it noted.
Retail sales in the UK rose more than expected in October, fuelling optimism over the country's economic outlook. Retail sales increased by a seasonally adjusted 0.8 percent last month, above forecasts for a gain of 0.4 percent. September retail sales fell by 0.4 percent. Sales rose at an annualized rate of 4.3 percent in October, beating expectations for a 3.8 percent gain, after rising at a rate of 2.3 percent in September.