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US dollar bounces back towards 14-year highs, yen slides

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The US dollar rebounded towards 14-year highs on Tuesday, boosted by upbeat comments from Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen that kept alive market expectations for swifter US interest rate hikes next year than had been expected.

[LONDON] The US dollar rebounded towards 14-year highs on Tuesday, boosted by upbeat comments from Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen that kept alive market expectations for swifter US interest rate hikes next year than had been expected.

The greenback climbed broadly but its gains were strongest against the yen, which slid as much as one per cent after the Bank of Japan kept monetary policy unchanged.

The yen surged along with fellow safe-haven the Swiss franc on Monday after deadly incidents in Turkey and Germany, but both currencies have now given up those gains.

Ms Yellen said late on Monday that the US labour market had improved to its strongest in almost a decade, suggesting wage growth is picking up.

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Ms Yellen did not mention monetary policy but some analysts said the fact that she did not pour cold water on investors' moves to price in a possible three rate hikes in 2017 following the Fed's policy statement and rate rise last week was a catalyst for dollar strength.

"She didn't use the opportunity to take the market back from being overly hawkish," said UBS currency strategist Constantin Bolz, in Zurich.

"Maybe there were some people who...thought they would hold off from further dollar longs until she spoke, in case she were to row back."

The US dollar rose 0.4 per cent against a basket of major currencies to 103.52, a hair's breadth away from last week's 14-year peak of 103.56. The euro fell to US$1.0369, close to last week's 14-year low.

The greenback was also within sight of a 10-1/2-month high of 118.66 yen touched last week, at 118.24 yen.

Expectations that US President-elect Donald Trump's administration will go ahead with tax cuts and fiscal spending, leading to higher US growth and inflation, have lifted US bond yields and the dollar in the past six weeks, in what has become known as the Trumpflation trade.

"The market is still playing this prospect of (policy) normalisation and, as long as this is the case, the US dollar will remain strong or even appreciate a little further," said Commerzbank currency strategist Thu Lan Nguyen, in Frankfurt.

Analysts said the yen was the most obvious play against the US dollar in the Trumpflation trade because the Bank of Japan is the central bank that looks furthest away from normalising its policy settings.

The BOJ on Tuesday affirmed its twin targets of minus 0.10 per cent interest on some excess reserves and a zero per cent 10-year government bond yield.

REUTERS

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