March 30, 2018 / 12:30 AM / a month ago

Dollar stalls after rally, braces for headwinds in new quarter

TOKYO (Reuters) - The dollar stalled against its peers on Friday as the recovery seen earlier this week petered out ahead of the new quarter, which could potentially bring renewed pressure on the greenback.

U.S. Dollar banknotes are seen in this photo illustration taken February 12, 2018. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez/Illustration

Against a basket of six other major currencies .DXY, the dollar was off 0.2 percent to 89.985.

The index was up nearly 0.6 percent for the week, during which it touched a one-week high of 90.178 on factors including easing of concerns over global trade protectionism and perceived progress on North Korea’s nuclear programmme.

“A key part of the dollar’s recent gains were quarter-end flows, with many investors seen to have closed out short positions on the currency to lift the dollar,” said Shin Kadota, senior strategist at Barclays in Tokyo.

“It remains to be seen if the dollar can retain its gains next week when the new quarter begins, as it will no longer have support from such flows. Much of the challenging themes will remain the same in the next quarter, such as the health of the U.S. economy and trade issues.”

The dollar index was down more than 2 percent for the quarter, its fifth straight quarter of declines.

The U.S. currency, which plumbed a 16-month low of 104.560 on Monday when trade woes roiled global markets, shed 0.2 percent to 106.245 yen JPY=. It has risen 1.5 percent this week but declined 5.7 percent for the quarter.

The dollar’s fall against the yen in recent months has come despite higher U.S. bond yields. The spread between the 10-year U.S. and Japanese government bond yields reached its widest in a decade this quarter as the Federal Reserve has raised interest rates steadily while the Bank of Japan is stuck with monetary easing.

The yen is often sought in times of market turmoil and there were numerous opportunities for investors to buy the Japanese currency in the first quarter, which was punctuated by unsettling political developments in the White House, trade tensions between the United States and China and an end to Wall Street’s bull market.

“The lack of correlation between dollar/yen and the U.S.-Japan yield spread looks unnatural. Upward pressure on dollar/yen will be significant should the pair re-establish their correlation with the yield spread,” said Yukio Ishizuki, senior forex strategist at Daiwa Securities.

The euro nudged up 0.15 percent to $1.2317 EUR=, having slipped 0.3 percent this week. The common currency was up 2.6 percent for the quarter, buoyed by prospects of the European Central Bank phasing out its accommodative monetary policy.

The pound added 0.1 percent to $1.4031 GBP=D3 and crawled away from $1.4011, a one-week low set the previous day.

Sterling has gained 3.9 percent this quarter, its best performance since mid-2015. It was lifted by hopes for a transition Brexit deal - which was eventually agreed earlier this month - and growing expectations that the Bank of England could soon raise interest rates.

The Australian dollar was up 0.1 percent at $0.7684 AUD=D4, edging away from a three-month low of $0.7648 touched on Thursday, pressured by the U.S. dollar's broad bounce and weaker prices of commodities such as iron ore.

The Aussie was down 1.7 percent for the quarter, its yield advantage over the U.S. currency eroded as the Fed has steadily raised rates.

Major currencies were confined in a narrow range with many of the world’s key markets closed on Friday for holiday.

Editing by Sam Holmes & Shri Navaratnam

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