The dollar hit a new five-year top on the yen on Friday after a strong U.S. inflation report, while the euro struggled to hold its own as a hawkish turn from the European Central Bank was offset by growth risks emanating from the Ukraine crisis.
The greenback rose as high as 116.55 yen in early trade, its highest level since January 2017. The dollar is up 1.5% on the yen this week, its biggest weekly gain since October.
“Dollar-yen looks to be overwhelmingly a yield play. It seems the contrast between an on-hold BOJ and a Fed readying for liftoff is just too tempting to ignore,” said Sean Callow, a senior currency strategist at Westpac.
Both the Federal Reserve and the Bank of Japan have policy meetings next week, but while the Fed is all but certain to hike rates from their pandemic low, the BOJ is set to remain an outlier and hold onto a dovish stance on monetary policy, weighing on the yen.
Data on Thursday showed that U.S. consumer prices surged 7.9% year-over-year in February, the largest annual increase in 40 years, even before the surge in commodities prices caused by the war in Ukraine has had its full effect.
The CPI data “basically indicates that the Fed should be hiking rates this month, but it also indicates that they will keep going [with hikes] at least initially,” said Rodrigo Catrill, a currency strategist at the National Bank of Australia.
The euro was last little changed at $1.1005. It finished a choppy Thursday 0.8% lower, but in the course of the day, it had risen to as high as $1.112 and dropped as low as $1.0975.
“The more hawkish message from the ECB had a temporary upward pressure on the euro but it was very short-lived which tells you that other dynamics are overriding any considerations about what the ECB might do, including news coming from Ukraine,” said Catrill.
The ECB said on Thursday it will phase out its stimulus in the third quarter, opening the door to an interest rate hike before the end of 2022 to combat soaring inflation.
It also modestly downgraded its growth forecasts for this year and next, and ramped up inflation expectations, as ECB President Christine Lagarde said the conflict was a “watershed for Europe”, which would curb growth but boost inflation.
Talks between Ukraine and Russia’s foreign ministers on Thursday made little apparent progress towards ending a war that is now in its third week.
The war has also weighed on sterling which was languishing at $1.3093 near a 16 month low.
The Australian and New Zealand dollars, lost a little ground on Friday, after their recent storming rally due to higher commodity prices.
The Aussie was at $0.7336 while the kiwi was at $0.6851.
Bitcoin was around $38,500, little changed on the week, despite a volatile few days as prices took a round trip in response to an executive order from U.S. President Joe Biden requiring the government to prepare reports on the future of money.