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Dollar dips on U.S. rate-cut bets, bitcoin on fire

Kitco News

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The dollar softened against a basket of currencies on Monday on bets the Federal Reserve may lower interest rates more than once this year, while tensions between Iran and the United States provided safe-haven support for the yen.

Bitcoin held firm after its torrid run over the weekend, when it broke above $11,000 for the first time since March 2018.

The world’s biggest and best-known cryptocurrency has risen nearly 200% this year as Facebook’s plan to introduce its Libra digital coin stoked optimism about a widening usage of virtual currencies.

Investors awaited whether U.S. President Donald Trump and China President Xi Jinping would at least call a truce on their trade war at a summit in Japan later this week.

“The Trump-Xi meeting at the G20 this coming weekend and heightened tensions in the Gulf, with the U.S. set to impose new sanctions on Iran’s crippled economy are keeping investors on edge,” said Marc Chandler, chief market strategist at Bannockburn Global Forex LLC.

Both China and the United States should make compromises in trade talks, Chinese Vice Commerce Minister Wang Shouwen said on Monday.

Markets believe that if Washington and Beijing fail to dial back their heated rhetoric on trade, then the Fed will be forced to cut interest rates to prevent a wider economic slowdown resulting from higher U.S. tariffs on imports.

Interest rates futures implied traders priced in a 100% chance the Fed would cut rates at the end of July, while they are betting on a high probability it might lower rates two more times after that, according to CME Group’s FedWatch programme.

(GRAPHIC-Bets on bold first rate-cut from the Fed link:

Expectations of falling U.S. rates have weakened the greenback. An index that tracks the dollar against a group of six currencies fell 1.57% last week, its biggest weekly loss in four months. At 9:38 a.m. (1338 GMT), the dollar index dipped 0.1% at 96.126.

The latest weekly positioning data confirmed the view of a weakening dollar.

Hedge funds have turned mildly bearish on the greenback, and have increased bets on weakness in other currencies such as the Australian dollar as their outlook on the global economy has soured.

Meanwhile, the yen retreated from its strongest levels against the dollar since January after President Trump called off a military strike against Iran but tensions between the two nations remain high.

The yen was down 0.18% at 107.495 per dollar after reaching 107.045 on Friday as nervous traders piled into the safe-haven currency.

Among digital currencies, bitcoin was steady at $10,857.77 after breaking above $11,000 this past weekend on the Luxembourg-based Bitstamp exchange.

(GRAPHIC-CFTC currency market positionings link:

(Graphic: World FX rates in 2019

Additional reporting by Saikat Chatterjee in LONDON; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Nick Zieminski

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