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German data fails to lift euro from 1-week low

London

THE euro held at a one-week low on Wednesday, ignoring data from Germany that showed the economy returned to growth in the first quarter, as trade tensions between the world's two biggest economies cast a shadow over risk appetite.

The single currency has been caught in the cross-currents of an escalating dispute between Washington and Beijing since last week, unable to conclusively rise above the US$1.1250 level.

"The announcement of the increased trade tariffs has generated negative sentiment about global growth and that is exerting downward pressure on the euro despite the German data," said Nikolay Markov, senior economist at Pictet Asset Management.

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US President Donald Trump threatened higher tariffs on billions of dollars of Chinese imports last week, and Beijing responded with planned tariff hikes of its own on Monday.

The escalation in the trade dispute comes at a time when latest data from Germany showed the economy returned to growth in the March quarter as householders spent more freely and construction activity picked up.

The single currency was broadly steady at US$1.1213 - just above a one-week low of US$1.1197 hit in the Asian session and more than 3 per cent below a 2019 high of nearly US$1.16 in early January.

Germany's economic figures were a sole bright indicator in an otherwise slate of dismal data.

China on Wednesday reported surprisingly weaker growth in retail sales and industrial output for April, adding pressure on Beijing to roll out more stimulus as the trade war with the United States rumbles on.

"We expected the data to be worse than last month, but this is going to increase concerns about the state of the Chinese economy. The market will be very nervous and looking out for the PMI data," said Commerzbank FX strategist Esther Maria Reichelt.

The Aussie dollar dropped as low as US$0.6922, its lowest level since Jan 3 when a flash crash in the foreign exchange markets rocked major currencies.

Barring that level, the currency was at its weakest in three years and down 0.2 per cent on the day.

The weak data gave further impetus to Aussie bears to add to their negative bets with net outstanding short positions still below 2019 highs of above US$5.2 billion.

The Aussie is often seen as a proxy for Chinese growth because of Australia's export-reliant economy and China being the country's main destination for its commodities.

Domestic data added to the woes, with the pace of growth in Australian wages stagnating. REUTERS