Thursday, October 20, 2016

Euro On Defensive Before ECB; Mexican Peso Firms To 6-Week High After U.S. Debate

By Lisa Twaronite and Masayuki Kitano 
Reuters
October 20, 2016

The euro stood near a three-month low ahead of a European Central Bank meeting later on Thursday, while the Mexican peso rose to a six-week high after the conclusion of the final U.S. presidential debate before the November election.

The euro eased 0.1 percent to $1.0969 EUR=, not far from Wednesday's near three-month low of $1.0955.

The main focus for investors is whether or not ECB President Mario Draghi will give any indications that the bank is poised to taper its bond purchase program. The ECB may defer until December any changes to its asset purchase, sources familiar with the discussion said last week.

"If Mario Draghi puts greater emphasis on the need for more stimulus, further losses are likely but if he's optimistic and emphasizes resilience and we think he will given recent data, EUR/USD could find its way back to 1.11," wrote Kathy Lien, managing director at BK Asset Management.

Major currencies showed limited reaction to the third and final debate in the U.S. election campaign between Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican rival Donald Trump, while the Mexican peso edged higher.

The Mexican peso, which is closely watched because Mexico is seen as most vulnerable to Republican Donald Trump's economic policy proposals, rose to 18.4555 MXN=D2 to the dollar at one point, its highest level since Sept. 8.

The Mexican peso last stood at 18.4760, up around 0.2 percent on the day.

Since most recent opinion polls have favored Clinton, the market's focus had been on whether Trump would be able to use the third and final debate to regain momentum in the final weeks ahead of the Nov. 8 vote.

"There didn't seem to be anything in the latest debate that put Clinton in a tight spot," said Kota Hirayama, senior economist for SMBC Nikko Securities in Tokyo.

A CNN snap poll of debate watchers found Clinton won with 52 percent, and Trump trailed with 39 percent, the network said.

Given the possibility of further unwinding of bearish bets against the Mexican peso and taking into account recent gains in global oil prices, the peso could rise to levels around 18.2 to 18.3 in the near term, Hirayama said.

The dollar was little changed against a basket of six major currencies at 97.925 .DXY. Against the yen JPY=, the dollar edged up 0.2 percent to 103.62 yen.

The pound held steady at $1.2281 GBP= ahead of British Prime Minister Theresa May's first European Union summit since taking the helm following Britain's June 23 vote to exit the bloc.

A source in May's office said the prime minister would use a dinner at the summit in Brussels to outline her Brexit plan to the other 27 leaders.

The Australian dollar fell 0.6 percent to $0.7679 AUD=D3 after a surprise drop in Australian employment in September was seen as adding to the risk of a further cut in interest rates.

Earlier on Thursday, the Australian dollar touched a two-month high of $0.7735, shrugging off a report that the mid-year federal budget update could be the catalyst for Australia to lose its AAA credit rating from Standard & Poor's after the ratings agency put it on negative watch.

If Australia were to be stripped of its AAA credit rating that could gradually prompt investors to shift funds away from the Australian dollar to higher-yielding emerging market currencies, said Masashi Murata, currency strategist for Brown Brothers Harriman in Tokyo.

"Australia's AAA rating is a key reason why money flows globally into the Australian dollar," Murata said.

"Given that Australian interest rates might be lowered and that the AAA rating could be cut, I think that may prompt a shift in funds to emerging markets," Murata said, adding that such moves could occur if risk sentiment remains stable.


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