LONDON—The dollar rose against major rival currencies in holiday-thinned trading on Thursday, as investors remained cautiously optimistic about the economic consequences of a surge in cases of the Omicron coronavirus variant.
Reuters data shows global COVID-19 infections hit a record high over the past seven days but, comforted by data suggesting the virus may turn out to be milder than in previous waves, many governments have resisted imposing widespread new lockdowns.
The dollar index, which measures the greenback against major peers, rose 0.39 percent to 96.19 after the S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average stock indexes closed at all-time highs on Wednesday, the latter rising for a sixth session.
“There’s definitely cautious optimism around, though the dollar is mostly just recovering the ground it lost yesterday afternoon (after the trade data) rather than anything more substantial,” said Kit Juckes, head of FX strategy at Societe Generale in London.
The U.S. trade deficit in goods mushroomed to the widest ever in November as imports of consumer goods shot to a record ahead of the second straight COVID-distorted holiday shopping season, while exports slipped after a historic gain a month earlier.
“Optimism, I think, can be seen in USD/JPY pulling away from 115,” Juckes added, as the Japanese currency fetched 115.18 per dollar, its lowest in a month and not too far from its November trough of 115.51.
The euro slipped 0.38 percent to $1.1304 after touching a month high on Wednesday.
Looking at the potential hit the latest wave of infections could inflict to European economies, Berenberg economists said in a note that a slowdown in economic activity would likely be shortlived.
“A potential decline in GDP in early 2022 would likely be offset by a bounce in activity shortly thereafter, leaving the outlook for GDP in 2023 unchanged,” they wrote.
“We view Omicron as a risk to the time profile but not the overall pace of growth,” they stated.
Sterling dipped 0.2 percent at $1.346.
China’s onshore spot Yuan finished its domestic session at 6.3793 per dollar, its weakest close since Nov. 29.
The Turkish lira continued to slide and was down 3.5 percent at 13.05 per dollar, after having fallen 6.9 percent on Wednesday.
Bitcoin steadied after two days of losses. The world’s largest cryptocurrency was last around $46,915, having been trending lower since hitting an all-time high of $69,000 in November.
Euro Zone Yields
German government bond yield steadied around an almost two-month high, after rising in the previous days as fading fears about the economic impact of the pandemic boosted risk appetite.
Investors focused on the upcoming withdrawal of central banks’ pandemic-time stimulus, taking the view that the European Central Bank would be less hawkish than the U.S. Federal Reserve.
Italian government bond prices were slightly outperforming peers, after underperforming in the previous sessions as markets worried about the country’s political stability should the former ECB chief Mario Draghi leave his job as a prime minister to become Italy’s president.
Italy’s 10-year government bond yield fell 2 basis points to 1.143 percent. while Germany’s 10-year benchmark yield was flat at -0.18 percent.