• Today is: Friday, March 13, 2015

Dollar hits 12-year peak, emerging markets spooked

Photo illustration of U.S. dollar notes displayed in Johannesburg
March10/ 2015

The U.S. dollar climbed to multi-year peaks against the euro and yen in Asia on Tuesday amid starkly diverging outlooks for interest rates globally, while currencies from emerging markets came under mounting pressure from risk aversion.

The skittish mood spread to Asian stocks as MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan slipped 0.6 percent.

Driving the dollar was speculation the Federal Reserve would start lifting interest rates from mid-year, while central banks in the European Union and Japan were busy easing policy by buying billions in government bonds.

The European Central Bank began its trillion-euro bond buying campaign on Monday, nudging down yields in Germany and other core EU sovereigns.

Selling in the euro gathered pace through the Asian session as a break of $1.0822 triggered stop-loss offers and took it to $1.0785, the lowest since September 2003. Bears are now eyeing a major layer of chart support at $1.0762.

The dollar also broke higher on the yen to reach 122.02, territory not visited since July 2007.

The prospect of rising U.S. yields was threatening to attract funds from emerging markets, causing strains from Brazil to Turkey. The Brazilian real led the rout, having fallen for the sixth straight session on Monday.

The pressure spread through Asia with the South Korean won hitting its lowest since late August 2013 and the Singapore dollar at its lowest since 2010.

The New Zealand dollar took a spill after police announced threats had been made to poison baby formula from the country’s milk producers. Dairy is New Zealand’s biggest export earner and any hint of trouble for the industry hurts the currency.

The kiwi slipped to $0.7293, having touched a five-week low at one point.

The volatility in currencies overshadowed data from China that showed consumer prices topped expectations with an annual rise of 1.4 percent in February, although much of the pick up was caused by seasonal volatility in food prices.

Producer prices continued to slide, underscoring deepening weakness in the economy and intensifying pressure on policymakers to find new ways to support growth.

Shanghai shares eased 0.1 percent, but that merely unwound a little of the gain made on Monday.

Japan’s Nikkei initially firmed on the lower yen, only to drift down 0.4 percent as the investor mood darkened.

Most commodities continued to struggle with the strength of the U.S. dollar. Gold fell to a three-month low around $1,159.20 an ounce, while copper futures lost 0.5 percent.

Oil managed minor gains, with Brent crude oil up 13 cents to $58.66 a barrel, while U.S crude added 26 cents to $50.26.