* EU deal cheered, although largely priced in
* Analysts say dollar set to struggle for now
* Aussie, sterling soar as risk sentiment improves
* Graphic: World FX rates in 2020 tmsnrt.rs/2RBWI5E (Adds details, new analyst quote, euro/dollar chart)
By Tommy Wilkes
LONDON, July 21 - The euro hit its strongest since early March on Tuesday after European Union countries struck a deal for a massive stimulus plan to revive their coronavirus-hit economies, while an upturn in sentiment sent the Australian dollar to a one-year high. The EU deal — a compromise on concerns that thrifty northern states had about handouts for more profligate neighbours — was hailed as an important signal of unity by Europe’s leaders and a foundation for economic recovery.
With encouraging results from several COVID-19 vaccine trials also boosting market sentiment and stock markets rallying, a clutch of currencies notched up recent highs against the safe-haven U.S. dollar.
The euro rose 0.2% to $1.1470 in Asian trading hours, its strongest since March 9. Gains were tempered by prior market expectations that a deal would eventually be agreed and the euro’s recent run higher as the recovery fund was negotiated.
The single currency was last up 0.1% at $1.1454.
Analysts said there was little new information in the final deal to spur the euro much higher immediately, with the breakdown between grants and loans already known.
“For the time being, no further momentum for the euro can be expected from either the fiscal or monetary policy side,” Commerzbank analyst Esther Reichelt said.
“From now on, it is primarily the recovery of the real economy and the development of (coronavirus) infections that will determine how the euro will perform going forward,” Reichelt said, adding that $1.14 was a justified price.
The dollar was flat when measured against a basket of currencies, and last at 95.675.
ING analysts said they are looking for “more gains to $1.20 later this year as USD weakness kicks in” because the recovery fund agreement is significant enough “not to prompt investors to exit their long EUR positions (particularly against USD, where the outlook for the remainder of the year looks bleak).”
The Australian dollar rose as much as 0.8% to $0.7071 , its highest since July 2019, helped by the bullish mood and after the central bank offered few surprises in minutes from last month’s meeting.
In a speech, Governor Philip Lowe also said that although he would prefer a cheaper Aussie dollar, its 27% recovery from March lows was supported by fundamentals.
The Canadian dollar climbed, with the U.S. dollar down 0.4% to C$1.3484, a 5-1/2 week high for the loonie.
The Norwegian crown rallied. The euro fell 0.5% against the crown to 10.51 crowns, its weakest since June 10.
Sterling also added 0.4% to $1.2716, its highest since June 11, and 0.3% against the euro to 90.20 pence .
The yen was little changed at 107.22 per dollar.
Editing by Catherine Evans