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US dollar gains on solid retail sales, before Fed meeting

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The US dollar index climbed to its highest in almost two weeks on Friday after encouraging retail sales data for May released ahead of a Federal Reserve policy meeting next week eased fears that the US economy is slowing sharply.

[NEW YORK] The US dollar index climbed to its highest in almost two weeks on Friday after encouraging retail sales data for May released ahead of a Federal Reserve policy meeting next week eased fears that the US economy is slowing sharply.

The Commerce Department said retail sales rose 0.5 per cent last month, just below economists' expectations of a 0.6 per cent gain.

Data for April was revised up to show retail sales gaining 0.3 per cent, instead of dropping 0.2 per cent as previously reported.

The US dollar index against a basket of currencies was last 97.35, up 0.53 per cent on the day and the highest since June 3.

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The US dollar has recovered in the last week from a weak start to June, as investors consider whether expectations for US interest rate cuts have gotten too far-fetched relative to the data.

With international economic growth slowing, investors are nervous that US President Donald Trump will impose tariffs on Japan and Europe, which could result in more dovish central banks globally and give the US dollar a relative advantage.

The US economy is also seen as better placed to handle trade tensions than other countries. The US dollar "has benefited to date from negative globalisation news as the domestic side of the US economy has looked sufficiently robust to deal with trade-related headwinds," Morgan Stanley analysts said in a report on Friday.

"Other countries look less resilient in the face of trade tensions due to higher exposure to global import demand, dependence on manufacturing exports, and underdeveloped domestic demand," they said.

Chinese data on Friday flashed more warning signs, with industrial output growth unexpectedly slowing in May to a more than 17-year low and investment cooling, underlining a need for more stimulus.

The Fed is not widely expected to lower rates when it meets on June 18-19, though investors will watch for new signals that a cut by the US central bank may come in July. Interest rate futures traders are pricing in a 23 per cent chance of a cut in June, and an 87 per cent likelihood of at least one cut in July, according to the CME Group's FedWatch Tool.

The other major catalyst for the US dollar in the near term is whether the United States and China will renew trade negotiations at the G20 summit on June 28-29.

Mr Trump said on Friday it didn't matter if Chinese President Xi Jinping attends the summit, adding that China would eventually make a trade deal with the United States.

REUTERS