The euro came under mounting pressure on Wednesday as the European Central Bank's embrace of negative interest rates encouraged flows out of the zone, while Asian shares consolidated near recent highs. The single currency was slipping across the board as investors looked to borrow euros at super-low rates and buy higher-yielding assets abroad, the so-called carry trade.
In contrast the dollar found support in a run of improving U.S. economic data which pushed up Treasury yields and stoked speculation the Federal Reserve might sound less dovish on policy when it meets next week. That diverging outlooks shoved the euro down to $1.3524 and further away from a $1.3668 peak scored at the start of the week. It also hit a seven-month trough on the higher-yielding Australian dollar and to near its lowest against the pound since late 2007.
Action in equity markets was more muted with many indices already having come a long way. MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan dipped 0.2% from a three-year peak. The MSCI index of emerging markets has also been on a roll to reach its highest since May 2013, in part on speculation the ECB's increasingly aggressive easing will encourage fund flows to the emerging world. Japan's Nikkei edged up 0.3% aided by MSCI's decision to remove South Korea and Taiwan indexes from its review list for reclassification to developed markets, keeping them in the emerging markets classification.
There had been speculation Tokyo equities would take the brunt of rebalancing if Korean and Taiwanese shares were reclassified to developed markets. Moves had been minor on Wall Street with the Dow up 0.02%, while the S&P 500 down 0.02% and the Nasdaq Composite 0.04% firmer.
The flow of U.S. data has been bright enough to soothe worries over the economy after a disappointing first quarter. Tuesday's releases showed small business confidence and job openings reaching heights not seen since 2007. That in turn has led the futures market to nudge forward the likely timing for a first rate hike from the Federal Reserve, though that is still well into 2015. Likewise, U.S. Treasury yields have reversed decisively higher with 10-year paper paying 2.646% compared to a trough of 2.402% just two weeks ago.
"The bull moves in bonds that began early this year are now officially over," said William O'Donnell Treasury strategist at RBS Markets. "As such, I still expect cash 10-years to trade at 2.80% over the coming month." The prospect of higher yields has offered some support to the U.S. dollar and it firmed to 80.880 against a basket of currencies, a long way from May's low of 78.906.
Still, the broader moves in currencies were more about euro weakness than dollar strength as the single currency came under increasing pressure in the wake of the ECB's easing. The adoption of negative deposit rates by the ECB has sparked talk reserve managers at other central banks were trimming their euro holdings, and that the very low yields offered by peripheral euro zone debt was finally discouraging demand for the paper. In commodities, gold was firm at $1,261.70 an ounce as a breakdown in strike talks in South Africa buoyed palladium and platinum.
Brent oil gained 23 cents to $109.75 a barrel, while U.S. crude prices added 11 cents to $104.46.
(Editing by Shri Navaratnam)