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Dollar drops on first trading day, portending more losses ahead

The world’s reserve currency fell on the first trading day of 2021, foreshadowing more losses to come, after a slew of improving Asian manufacturing data bolstered risk assets.

The dollar hit 2018 lows against currencies including the Chinese yuan and the Malaysian ringgit, while also declining against every Group-of-10 peer. Purchasing managers indexes from Japan to Indonesia showed gains for the last month of December, data showed Monday.

“Uncertainty is diminishing and the strong global growth recovery should favor the rest of the world, so we think the USD has some overvaluation to work off,” Patrik Schowitz, global multi-asset strategist at JPMorgan Asset Management, wrote in a note. The dollar’s weakness is likely to be most notable “against the emerging markets FX complex, which should have cyclical upside and is still relatively cheap.”

Onshore yuan breached the 6.5 level for the first time since June 2018, while the ringgit crossed the 4 level mark against the dollar. The Indonesian rupiah jumped more than 1%, while the risk-sensitive Australian and New Zealand dollars rose.

“China’s growth remains strong while the US and Europe struggle to contain the virus, and that is helping the yuan to extend a rally into the new year,” said Ken Cheung, chief Asia foreign-exchange strategist at Mizuho Bank Ltd. “We expect the yuan to gain even further from here, as China will lead the world in terms of economic recovery in the first half. The currency may test 6.3 in the coming months.”

Vaccine optimism and hopes for additional US fiscal stimulus has ramped up demand for risk assets and weighed on the dollar. Calls for greenback declines are also gaining momentum with the likes of Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and BlackRock Inc. favoring emerging market currencies over the greenback. — Ruth Carson and Tian Chen/Bloomberg

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