- EUR/USD extended recent gains to briefly clear 1.14 for the first time in three weeks, as the European Central Bank launched a comprehensive corporate bond buying program on Wednesday.
The currency pair traded in a tight range between 1.1355 and 1.1410, before settling at 1.1396, up 0.0039 or 0.33%. With the slight gains, the euro posted its third straight win against the dollar and fifth over the last seven sessions. Since dipping below 1.11 in late-May, the euro has rallied by more than 2.3% against its American counterpart over the last week.
EUR/USD likely gained support at 1.1055, the low from March 15 and was met with resistance at 1.1616, the high from May 3.
In the euro area, yields on corporate bonds moved lower as the ECB started a highly-anticipated corporate sector asset purchasing program, in its latest attempt to stave off deflation. The bonds will be limited to investment-grade securities, according to the ECB, which are euro denominated and issued in the euro zone. It is estimated that the market for such bonds is around €500 and €600 billion, consisting primarily of debt from major corporations in France and the Netherlands.
Also on Wednesday, ECB Governing Council member Francois Villeroy de Galhau outlined the potential ramifications of lowering interest rates deeper into negative territory. In March, the ECB slashed its deposit rate even further by charging banks 0.4% to hold cash overnight. Last week, the ECB held its benchmark interest rate at a record-low of zero.
"Not all unconventional instruments are legitimate. There are limits on how negative interest rates can go," Villeroy de Galhau said during an appearance in Berlin. "This type of unconventional measure, although useful, should be used with care."
Yields on the Germany 10-year remained flat at 0.05%, while yields on the U.S. 10-year dropped one basis point to 1.70%. On Tuesday, yields on German bunds fell to an all-time record low of 0.04%.
Elsewhere, the U.S. Labor Department said in its monthly Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, or JOLTS that the rate of hiring fell to 3.5% in April from 3.7% in March. It marked the lowest level since August, 2014. At the same time, job openings nationwide increased by 118,000 to a seasonally adjusted 5.79 million, the highest amount in 11 months. The job openings rate rose slightly by 0.1 to 3.9%.
The subdued hiring figures come on the heels of a dismal U.S. monthly employment report last week when the Labor Department reported that the economy added 38,000 in May, the fewest number of monthly jobs in nearly six years. The downbeat report provided an unexpected shock to the labor market, which added an average of 200,000 jobs per month last year – one of the highest annual totals since the Great Recession. On Monday, Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen attempted to soothe markets by downplaying the significance of a single report.
Yellen's comments, however, have done little to convince market players that the Fed could resume tightening in the coming months. The chances of a July rate hike, according to the CME Group's (NASDAQ:CME) FedWatch tool, stood at 24.8% on Wednesday, down from 30.0% a month earlier. The market also sees practically no chance of a rate hike next week when the FOMC convenes for the two-day meeting next week. The current probability of a June rate hike fell to 1.9% on Tuesday from 3.8% during the previous day.
Any rate hikes by the Fed this year are viewed as bullish for the dollar, as foreign investors pile into the greenback in order to capitalize on higher yields.
The U.S. Dollar Index, which measures the strength of the greenback versus a basket of six other major currencies, fell more than 0.35% to an intraday low of 93.41 before rallying to 93.59 at the close of U.S. afternoon trading. The index has crashed by more than 5% since early-December.