Dollar weakens as market optimism lifts riskier currencies

LONDON (Reuters) – The safe-haven dollar started the week near two-week lows on Monday, as optimism about COVID-19 vaccine rollouts and a planned $1.9 trillion U.S. stimulus package drove up riskier currencies and stock markets across Europe and Asia.

FILE PHOTO: Representations of virtual currency Bitcoin are placed on U.S. Dollar banknotes in this illustration taken May 26, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

Among the gainers versus the weaker dollar, the British pound broke $1.39 for the first time in nearly three years while commodity currencies strengthened, including the South African rand, which hit a one-year high.

The improved risk appetite was also reflected in equities, with European indexes rising after Japanese stocks surged to a more than 30-year high earlier in the day.

Many financial markets in Asia remained closed on Monday for Lunar New Year, and U.S. stock markets will be shut for Presidents Day.

The dollar index slipped 0.1%, close to last week’s low of 90.249 – a level unseen since Jan. 27.

Analysts at MUFG said the dollar could weaken further if market optimism held.

“We believe there is plenty yet to go in the so-called ‘reflation trade’ with market participants under-estimating the willingness of global policymakers to let the economy run hot and fuel stronger-than-expected global growth through the remainder of the year,” the analysts said in a note.

Bitcoin remained volatile, retreating to as low as $45,914.75 a day after reaching a record $49,714.66.

The world’s most popular cryptocurrency had rallied 25% last week, boosted by endorsements from Tesla and BNY Mellon.

The Chinese yuan reached its strongest level since June 2018 at 6.4010 per dollar in the offshore market.

The euro edged higher 0.1% to $1.21310, extending last week’s 0.6% advance.

The dollar rose a third of a percent to 105.27 yen, recovering some of the previous week’s losses.

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