© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: FILE PHOTO: George Washington is seen with printed medical mask on the one Dollar banknote in this illustration taken
By Tom Westbrook
SINGAPORE (Reuters) – The dollar was on the defensive at a one-week low on Thursday, as robust U.S. data and fresh hopes for U.S. fiscal stimulus had investors confident enough about economic recovery prospects to seek out riskier currencies.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told reporters that talks with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi "made a lot of progress" on long-awaited COVID-19 relief legislation.
Along with strong U.S. labour and manufacturing data, that helped stocks to rally and the mood pulled the dollar to a one-week low of 93.664 against a basket of currencies (=USD).
Early in the Asia session the New Zealand dollar extended gains to a one-week peak of $0.6623. The Aussie rose 0.1% to $0.7170, a fraction below a one-week top of $0.7175 made overnight.
Mnuchin said later on Fox Business News that he would not accept the Democrats' proposed $2.2 trillion aid package, rather something closer to $1.5 trillion, adding that an agreement had been reached on direct payments to Americans.
"The two sides have come a long way," said Westpac FX analyst Sean Callow.
"The rhetoric is reasonably conciliatory, I think we're getting closer," he said, adding an agreement would help the mood in equity markets and likely spill over into currency trade, boosting riskier currencies at the dollar's expense.
At the same time, jobs figures that showed U.S. private employers stepped up hiring harder than forecast last month and that midwest manufacturing grew faster than expected also fed in to the positive sentiment.
Chinese data on Wednesday had also shown the recovery on track in the world's second-biggest economy.
The yuan edged up to a week-high 6.7804 in offshore trade on Thursday, though volumes are thin and the onshore market closed for holidays until Oct. 9.
Nevertheless, firmness in the safe-haven Japanese yen indicated that plenty of underlying caution still remains. The yen held at 105.45 in Asia on Thursday, after climbing in the wake of a chaotic first U.S. presidential debate.
It ended its quarter since mid-2019 on Wednesday with a 2.4% gain over the three months to Sept. 30 as some of the exuberance in risk assets wore off, particularly in September.
Gains in the euro overnight were also muted after European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde hinted that a strategy overhaul, and a more accommodative approach to inflation, could be possible.
The euro (EUR=) edged up 0.2% on Wednesday and held at $1.1726 on Thursday. The pound was steady at $1.2921.
Final purchasing managers index figures are due in Europe and Britain later on Thursday, followed by the ISM manufacturing survey in the United States and jobless claims data – all providing an update on the progress of the global coronavirus recovery.
Speeches from Bank of England Chief Economist Andy Haldane, at 1020 GMT, and ECB Chief Economist Philip Lane, at 1545 GMT, will also be closely watched for hints as to the next monetary moves.