© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A trader shows U.S. dollar notes at a currency exchange booth in Karachi, Pakistan December 3, 2018. REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro

By Tom Westbrook

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – The dollar hovered around a two-week low on Thursday, weighed down by the latest insistence from Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell that rate increases aren’t on the radar, while sterling has been riding higher with re-opening optimism.

Overnight, the Fed first sounded confident about the economy in its statement. Then Powell was more circumspect and said in his news conference that rate increases were “a ways away” and that the job market still had “some ground to cover”.

The greenback initially rose following the statement, before retreating to a two-week low of $1.1849 per euro after Powell’s remarks.

It seems to be taking a breather from a month-long steady rise, and the euro is now above its 20-day moving average.

Improved market mood after Bloomberg reported China’s securities regulator held a phone call with banks to soothe fears about the recent selloff also put some support behind riskier currencies overnight, analysts said.

“The reaction was to the Powell presser, which was seen as dovish,” said National Australia Bank (OTC:)’s head of FX strategy Ray Attrill. “And improving risk sentiment should be associated with a weaker dollar,” he added, noting the rebound in U.S.-listed China tech names and recent gains in re-opening exposed firms.

The fell for a third straight session on Wednesday and hit a two-week low of 92.233, then held near that level at 92.257 early in the Asia session.

The has recovered most of its Tuesday plunge, though it traded slightly on the back foot ahead of the open of onshore markets on Thursday, at 6.4902 per dollar.

The Australian dollar made a modest overnight rise, though it has been held back by a lengthening lockdown of Sydney which is set to drag on the national economy.

The last sat at $0.7372 while the bounced from its overnight lows to hover around $0.6959.

The Japanese yen has found support this week from nerves about the Delta coronavirus variant and jitters in China’s equity market, and it held at 109.73 per dollar.

Another big mover this week has been sterling, as traders have been encouraged by early signs that England’s end to most COVID restrictions last week has not been a disaster. [GBP/]

Sterling is up nearly 2.5% from a low around $1.3572 last week to trade at $1.3906 on Thursday, and it touched an almost four-month high of 84.97 pence per euro overnight.

It has gained 3% from last week’s four-month low on the yen and is on a bit of a tear against the Aussie, rising 1.2% over the week so far and more than 6% year-to-date.

British infection numbers ticked higher on Wednesday, but the rolling averages are heading lower – though experts, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson, have cautioned that it is too early to draw conclusions.

“At the moment, the UK’s (COVID) position is pretty good and I do think that’s had an impact,” said NAB’s Attrill.

Ahead on Thursday traders await German labour and inflation data, European sentiment surveys and second-quarter U.S. GDP – where forecasts vary wildly but the consensus is for 8.5% annualised growth.

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