November 21, 2018 / 1:08 AM / 6 months ago

FOREX-Dollar makes a comeback as equities rout drives safe haven bid

* Dollar rebounds from 2-week lows

* Euro under pressure over Italian budget uncertainty

* Canadian dollar hits 4-month low as oil rout worsens

* Graphic: World FX rates in 2018

By Vatsal Srivastava

SINGAPORE, Nov 21 (Reuters) - The dollar firmed against its major peers on Wednesday, extending overnight gains as investors shunned riskier assets in favour of safe haven currencies on heightened concerns about slowing global growth and the U.S.-Sino trade war.

The greenback has been under pressure for most of this week as cautious comments by Federal Reserve officials and surprisingly weak U.S. economic data suggested the central bank could slow the pace of monetary policy tightening.

But with risk sentiment souring and a global equities rout on Tuesday, traders had returned to the safe haven dollar, which climbed from a two-week low hit earlier on Tuesday.

“What’s driving currency markets right now are fears of a slowdown in economic growth with safe haven currencies like the dollar and yen likely to benefit,” said Michael McCarthy, chief markets strategist at CMC Markets.

The dollar index, a gauge of its performance against six major peers, was steady at 96.82 on Wednesday. The index gained 0.65 percent in the previous trading session.

“For now, the dollar has retained its safe haven attributes outperforming across the board in the overnight session,” said Rodrigo Catril, senior currency strategist at NAB, in a note.

With the Federal Reserve widely expected to raise interest rates by 25 basis points in December, analysts think the greenback could trade with a positive bias in the short term, despite a paring in longer-term rate hike expectations.

The yen was relatively unchanged at 112.68. It touched its highest level this month on Tuesday at 112.29 before losing steam as dollar bulls took charge and drove the greenback higher against the Japanese currency.

The euro traded with a weak bias at $1.1368. The single currency lost 0.7 percent of its value on Tuesday.

Wider confidence retreated on Tuesday as Italian bank shares hit a two-year low and the spread between German and Italian bond yields widened.

Italy is at loggerheads with the European Commission and many fellow euro zone governments over its expansionary 2019 budget, which breaks EU’s fiscal rules.

“The potential for the a further tussle between Rome and Brussels can have an impact on the overall Eurozone economic growth, which will keep the euro under pressure,” added Michael McCarthy.

The British pound was little changed at $1.2784, having lost 0.5 percent versus the greenback on Tuesday.

The Canadian dollar dropped to a four-month low versus the dollar to trade at 1.3305 as the price of crude fell to its lowest level in more than a year ahead of next month’s OPEC meeting. Canada is one of the world’s top oil exporters.

Elsewhere, the Australian dollar, often considered a barometer of risk appetite, was marginally lower at $0.7209 in early Asian trade, having lost more than 1 percent on Tuesday as global risk sentiment worsened. (Reporting by Vatsal Srivastava; Editing by Sam Holmes)

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