World News

Dollar gains on positive U.S. economic data

By Karen Brettell

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The dollar gained on Thursday after multiple data releases painted a positive U.S. economic picture, reversing earlier weakness following the preliminary deal between the United States and China to de-escalate their trade war.

U.S. retail sales increased for a third straight month in December, with households buying a range of goods even as they cut back on purchases of motor vehicles, suggesting the economy maintained a moderate growth pace at the end of 2019.

A gauge of manufacturing activity in the U.S. Mid-Atlantic region also rebounded in January to its highest level in eight months, and the outlook is the brightest in more than a year and a half, the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia said.

Other data showed that the number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits fell more than expected last week.

“The data flurry was positive, particularly the Philly Fed number,” said Greg Anderson, global head of foreign exchange strategy at BMO Capital Markets in New York. It “reduces the probability for a recession, which was low already.”

The dollar index <.DXY> was last 97.329, up 0.10% on the day, after falling to 97.085 overnight, which was the lowest since Jan. 8.

The dollar has weakened since the United States and China on Wednesday signed a deal in which China will boost purchases of U.S. goods and services by $200 billion over two years in exchange for the rolling back of some tariffs.

But 25% tariffs on a $250 billion array of Chinese industrial goods and components used by U.S. manufacturers, and China’s retaliatory tariffs on over $100 billion in U.S. goods, will remain.

“For the dollar, it’s a mixed bag … it should mean higher U.S. growth this year, but it also means higher foreign growth this year and less risks abroad, and that tends to pull capital out of the U.S. and be dollar negative,” said Anderson.

The Swiss franc <CHF=> was modestly weaker against the greenback, after reaching a 16-month high earlier on Thursday. It reached 0.961 overnight, its strongest level since Sept. 2018.

The United States on Monday added Switzerland to its watch list of currency manipulators, which analysts say could discourage the Swiss National Bank (SNB) from intervening to try to limit further appreciation of the franc.

(Reporting by Karen Brettell; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Cynthia Osterman)