Ailing dollar boosts demand for commodities, credit

By @ibtimes on

The dollar floundered at three-year lows against a basket of currencies on Friday, keeping precious metals near record highs, although the risk of dealers covering bets against the beleaguered U.S. currency in thin trading looms, especially given holidays in some centers including Japan.

Though some signs of dollar short covering versus some Asian currencies, particularly the Malaysian ringgit was seen, the medium-term outlook continues to be for dollar weakening, given U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's pledge to continue with the ultra-easy monetary policy.

Sean Callow, a strategist at Westpac in Sydney said sentiment toward the dollar is profoundly bearish with no catalyst for reversal at least, until the all important non-farm payrolls data next week.

With U.S. economic data this week also offering no succor to the ailing dollar, the dollar's index <.DXY>, which tracks its performance against a basket of major currencies, fell to its lowest level since July 2008 before recovering somewhat.

The dollar index is down 7.5 percent this year, making it one of the world's worst-performing assets.

The likely indicator of a reversal in the USD's (mis)fortunes is global equities. A sustained bout of profit-taking would assuredly spillover into foreign exchange markets, with the EUR and AUD returning back to earth, said Michael Woolfolk, strategist at BNY Mellon.

For now, that reversal looked unlikely with world equities <.MIWD00000PUS> up by some 5 percent in the past two weeks while Asian stocks outside Japan <.MIAPJ0000PUS> hovering close to a three-year peak hit on Thursday.

For the month, Asia-ex Japan is set to rise by nearly 4 percent while its year-to-date gain so far is 5 percent.

On Friday though, stocks ran out of steam as traders took profits after a recent rally with Australian shares <.AXJO> falling by 1.5 percent led by miners due to the strong Aussie while rising mortgage rates pushed Hong Kong stocks <.HSI> lower.

It's across the board, apart from the banking sector...the high Aussie dollar is now starting to weigh on this market, particularly with the miners, Burrell Stockbroking dealer Jamie Elgar said.

The Australian dollar stood at $1.0902, still within easy reach of a 29-year peak of $1.0948, having gained nearly 13 percent since the March lows.

ROARING CREDIT

While equities had a somewhat lukewarm week, Asian credit markets had a smashing one with investors snapping up issuances out of the region and credit spreads narrowing substantially.

Primary markets enjoyed one of their best weeks with Indonesia's $2.5 billion dollar bond sale garnering blockbuster demand while a Chinese utility company and a Philippine port operator pushed through perpetual bond offerings.

Robust demand for perpetual bonds or perps indicated that investors were scampering to lock in high yielding rates in an otherwise low interest rate environment with outlook positive for yields.

Weekly average of issuances in the first 17 weeks of the year is nearly $2 billion helping the Asia ex-Japan year to date total a whopping $33.45 billion. The weekly average of supply is nearly a fifth higher than the average for 2010.

COMMODITIES SOFTEN

The broad commodity market rally softened with silver pulling back by nearly a dollar after rocketing to $49.51 per ounce, its highest since 1980, while NYMEX crude for June pulled away from the $113 per barrel mark.

Both Shanghai copper futures contracts and wheat futures too declined.

The 19-commodity Reuters-Jefferies CRB index <.CRB>, a broad indicator of the commodity market, is however up nearly 10 percent this year, making it the world's best performing asset group.

Thursday's batch of weak U.S. data meant bonds had yet another good day with benchmark ten-year U.S. yields steadying near 3.32 percent, well on track for its biggest monthly drop in eight months.

Elsewhere, the Chinese yuan cracked through the 6.5 per dollar line for the first time, indicating Beijing's determination to fight inflation and giving a leg up to other currencies.

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