Dollar climbs to 3-month highs; hawkish Powell provides support

The U.S. dollar climbed to three-month highs Wednesday after Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell guided towards a higher terminal rate than previously expected on the first day of his testimony before the U.S. Congress.

At 03:10 ET (08:10 GMT), the US Dollar Index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of six other currencies, traded 0.1% higher at 105.705, having earlier climbed to its highest level in three months at 105.868.

Powell went in front of the Senate Banking Committee on Tuesday, and said that recent U.S. inflation and jobs data had been stronger than expected, and thus interest rates would likely have to increase by more than had seemed likely previously.

This resulted in U.S. Treasury yields surging higher, with two-year yields climbing past 5% for the first time since 2007, and a further inverting of the yield curve.

Powell returns to Capitol Hill later Wednesday, this time testifying to the House Financial Services Committee.

Ahead of this, there is more economic data to study, in the form of the February ADP nonfarm employment change and the JOLTS job openings for January.

These will provide clues about the health of the U.S. labor market ahead of Friday’s official jobs report, which is expected to show the economy added 200,000 jobs last month.

Elsewhere, EUR/USD traded largely unchanged at 1.0545, after earlier falling to a two-month low at 1.0525, recovering after German industrial production rebounded by more than expected in January, rising 3.5% on the month after a revised drop of 2.4% the prior month.

Recent data has tended to suggest that the Eurozone’s largest economy has weathered the storm of soaring energy prices better than had been feared.

That said, the country’s consumers are still under pressure, as retail sales fell 0.3% on the month in February, an improvement from the 5.3% drop in January but still below expectations.

European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde is scheduled to speak in Geneva later in the session, and her comments will be studied carefully for clues of future monetary policy.

GBP/USD edged lower to 1.1823, falling to multi-month lows following Powell’s hawkish comments, and could drop further in the coming months, according to Bank of England policy maker Catherine Mann.

“There has been quite a hawkish tone coming from the Federal Reserve and ECB,” Mann said in an interview on Tuesday. “An important question in regards to the pound is how much of that existing hawkish tone is already priced into the pound. If Fed hawkishness is not priced in, the pound could fall further.”

USD/JPY rose 0.3% to 137.56 to a near three-month high, with the soaring U.S. yields weighing heavily on the yen, AUD/USD rose 0.2% to 0.6595, after sharp losses overnight, and USD/CNY rose 0.1% to 6.9708, nearing the significant 7-per-dollar level.