December 18, 2019 / 4:04 PM / 2 months ago

FOREX-Dollar gains as U.S. data make more Fed rate cuts unlikely

(New throughout; changes dateline, previous LONDON)

By Kate Duguid

NEW YORK, Dec 18 (Reuters) - The U.S. dollar rose on Wednesday as strong economic data decreased the chances the Federal Reserve would continue its rate-cutting cycle in 2020.

Industrial production rebounded in the United States in November, mainly because a strike by General Motors Co workers ended. Housing starts and building permits were both reported to have grown more than expected and October JOLTS job openings were better than forecast, suggesting that the U.S. labor market remains strong.

Expectations the Fed will cut rates from the current 150-175 basis point level are 2.2% for the January meeting, 4.3% for March and 12% for April, according to CME Group's FedWatch tool. The same tool shows a 50% chance that rates will remain at current levels through December 2020.

"Bottom line: the U.S. economy remains on solid footing even as the rest of the world struggles," wrote analysts at Brown Brothers Harriman.

The dollar rose against the euro by 0.23% to $1.112. The single currency has struggled to stay above its 200-day moving average of $1.115. The dollar was also 0.39% higher against the pound to $1.308, which has lost all its election gains on fears Britain could leave the European Union without a trade deal.

The dollar index "is up two days in a row for the first time since the last week of November, and has recouped over a third of its December swoon. Sterling is testing the Dec. 12 low near $1.3050 and a break below would set up a test of the November 22 low near $1.2825," the Brown Brothers Harriman analysts wrote.

German business morale rose more than expected in December, a survey showed on Wednesday, another sign that a manufacturing slump in Europe's largest economy may be bottoming out after overall output shrank earlier in the year. The data, however, failed to help the falling euro.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said the United States may raise tariffs on European goods as it tries to shrink its chronic trade deficit with the continent, re-igniting worries about the export-driven euro.

The normally sleepy Hong Kong dollar hit a five-month high, roused into its sharpest rally in a year by investment flows from China, cooling unrest and a global unwinding of long positions in the greenback. It remained slightly off its July high of 7.7822; it will hit a 2-1/2 year high if it breaks below that level. (Reporting by Kate Duguid and Olga Cotaga; Editing by David Gregorio)

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