Dollar plunges, world stocks up on Singapore move

NEW YORK/LONDON Thu Oct 14, 2010 9:21pm IST

Traders are pictured at their desks in front of the DAX board at the Frankfurt stock exchange October 14, 2010. REUTERS/Remote/Pawel Kopczynski

Traders are pictured at their desks in front of the DAX board at the Frankfurt stock exchange October 14, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Remote/Pawel Kopczynski

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NEW YORK/LONDON (Reuters) - The U.S. dollar index hit the year's low and world stocks were higher on Thursday after Singapore let its currency strengthen, spurring gains in most major currencies against the struggling greenback.

The Australian dollar, which boasts the highest yield among major currencies, soared to a 28-year high at $0.9994 and poised to near parity.

Investors continued to dump the dollar against the backdrop of Singapore's move and on rising expectations the Federal Reserve will engage in another round of "quantitative easing" -- effectively printing money to buy assets.

Gold prices, one of the market's favorite safe haven securities, remained within 1 percent of the record high and were still set for their fifth consecutive weekly rise.

Speculation of aggressive monetary action intensified further after new U.S. claims for first-time jobless benefits rose last week.

The Singapore dollar hit a record high after Singapore, which is suffering from rising inflation, allowed its trading band to widen, following a similar move this week by the Russian central bank.

"Effectively the Singapore move is a tightening of policy and it clearly shows Asian economies are at the opposite end of the spectrum compared to the spare capacity in the U.S. economy," said Chris Turner, head of FX strategy at ING.

Recent moves by emerging market powers such as Brazil and Thailand to curb currency appreciation and a war of words among global policymakers about foreign-exchange imbalances reflect a lack of consensus ahead of a meeting of G20 financial ministers and central bank governors next week in Gyeongju, Korea.

DOLLAR IN THE DUMPS

The dollar index, which tumbled 1 percent to its weakest since December at 76.259, is on course to test trendline support at 75.95, with its November low of 74.17 then not far away.

The euro surged to a more than eight-month high of $1.4123 on trading platform EBS. Against the Japanese yen, the dollar was down 0.38 percent at 81.46 from a previous session close of 81.770.

The currency markets weren't alone in stealing the spotlight on Thursday. Spot gold prices rose $6.25, or 0.46 percent, to $1377.30.

Ashraf Laidi, chief market analyst at CMC Markets in London, said that once the United States' second round of quantitative easing "becomes the new normal, selling pressure on the U.S. dollar could well ease as traders begin anticipating the days of similar moves by the Bank of England and the ECB."

Global stock indexes strengthened, with the MSCI world equity index up over 0.7 percent to 319.45, the highest since shortly after the collapse of Lehman in September 2008. The Thomson Reuters global stock index also hit two-year highs before trimming gains.

Benchmark stock indexes were mixed in early New York trading. The Dow Jones industrial average was up 6.10 points, or 0.05 percent, at 11,102.18. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was down 0.39 points, or 0.03 percent, at 1,177.71 and the Nasdaq Composite Index was up 1.85 points, or 0.08 percent, at 2,443.08.

Most of the U.S. Treasury debt curve was down.

The benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury note was down 1/32, with the yield at 2.43 percent. The 2-year U.S. Treasury note was down 1/32, with the yield at 0.371 percent. The 30-year U.S. Treasury bond was up 14/32, with the yield at 3.793 percent.

In energy and commodities prices, U.S. light sweet crude oil rose 35 cents, or 0.42 percent, to $83.36 per barrel and the Reuters/Jefferies CRB Index was up 1.02 points, or 0.34 percent, at 300.76.

(Additional reporting by Steven C. Johnson in New York; Editing by Neil Stempleman)

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