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Dollar muted as investors await Fed outlook on rates

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WASHINGTON/LONDON (Reuters) – The dollar edged up but hovered around five-week lows on Wednesday, before the conclusion of the Federal Reserve’s policy meeting at which investors will be looking for any insight into what might happen with interest rates given the turmoil in the banking sector.

Markets show a quarter-point rise in U.S. rates is the most likely outcome, but investors will be keen to hear what Chair Jerome Powell says about the crisis that has rattled global banks this month and how carefully the central bank feels it needs to tread.

“The bank run has abated for the moment, but that might be contingent on what the Fed signals today,” said Adam Button, chief currency analyst at ForexLive in Toronto. “The risk is that the (Federal Open Market Committee) shatters the fragile calm in markets today… by acting too aggressively.”

The Fed, together with other major central banks, has made provisions to grease the wheels of the financial system, after the failure of several smaller U.S. lenders and the implosion of Credit Suisse at the weekend unleashed huge market volatility and a rout in banking stocks and bonds in particular.

Following Credit Suisse’s shotgun takeover by UBS, and U.S. authorities and large banks helping prop up some of the more vulnerable regional institutions, investors are breathing a little more easily, leading to the dollar losing some of its safe-haven appeal this week.

The Fed meeting concludes on Wednesday with the 2 p.m. EDT (1800 GMT) release of a policy statement followed half an hour later by a news conference by Powell.

“Today’s rate hike is priced in and expected and there would be no reason to not do it,” Fiona Cincotta, a strategist with City Index, said.

The dollar index rose 0.029% at 103.180, with the euro up 0.1% to $1.0778.

Christopher Wong, currency strategist at OCBC, said the focus will be on how the Fed communicates its forward guidance, in particular “the higher for longer” rhetoric.

“Ideally, we would like the Fed to go with a 25 basis point hike this meeting, tone down hawkish guidance and emphasize that policy decisions at subsequent meetings will continue to be data-dependent,” Wong said.

The pound was last up 0.08% versus the dollar to trade at $1.2224 after data showed UK inflation came in much hotter than expected in February, which puts Bank of England policymakers in a tough position when they meet on Thursday.

Markets show traders now fully expect a rate rise of 25 basis points, whereas just 24 hours ago, the chances of the bank raising by a quarter of a point or standing pat were 50/50.

The Japanese yen weakened 0.20% to 132.80 per dollar, while the Australian dollar rose 0.07% to $0.667.

In cryptocurrencies, bitcoin was last up 0.86% at $28,394.00, but below Monday’s nine-month peak.

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Currency bid prices at 10:08AM (1408 GMT)

Description RIC Last U.S. Close Pct Change YTD Pct High Bid Low Bid

Previous Change

Session

Dollar index 103.1700 103.1700 +0.02% -0.309% +103.2600 +102.9700

Euro/Dollar $1.0782 $1.0770 +0.12% +0.63% +$1.0800 +$1.0759

Dollar/Yen 132.7800 132.4550 +0.25% +1.28% +132.9900 +132.2600

Euro/Yen 143.14 142.67 +0.33% +2.02% +143.6200 +142.3900

Dollar/Swiss 0.9240 0.9223 +0.21% -0.04% +0.9245 +0.9207

Sterling/Dollar $1.2227 $1.2219 +0.07% +1.10% +$1.2297 +$1.2209

Dollar/Canadian 1.3713 1.3713 +0.02% +1.23% +1.3719 +1.3694

Aussie/Dollar $0.6675 $0.6671 +0.07% -2.08% +$0.6702 +$0.6662

Euro/Swiss 0.9962 0.9929 +0.33% +0.68% +0.9964 +0.9927

Euro/Sterling 0.8816 0.8812 +0.05% -0.32% +0.8820 +0.8773

NZ $0.6208 $0.6194 +0.19% -2.27% +$0.6224 +$0.6173

Dollar/Dollar

Dollar/Norway 10.5160 10.5570 -0.31% +7.23% +10.5570 +10.5010

Euro/Norway 11.3398 11.3540 -0.13% +8.06% +11.3760 +11.3176

Dollar/Sweden 10.3567 10.3338 +0.33% -0.49% +10.3692 +10.2991

Euro/Sweden 11.1668 11.1296 +0.33% +0.15% +11.1749 +11.1124

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