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CURRENCIES : Dollar Slips As Traders Assess Syria Strikes, Look To U.S. Retail Sales

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04/16/2018 | 12:55pm CEST

By Sara Sjolin, MarketWatch

Hong Kong Monetary Authority steps into market again

The dollar dropped against most major currencies on Monday, as traders digested the weekend's airstrikes on Syria and looked ahead to the closely watched U.S. retail sales due later in the day.

The ruble was sent on a roller-coaster ride after news the U.S. is looking to slap more sanctions on Russia.

What are currencies doing?

The ICE U.S. Dollar Index slipped 0.2% to 89.607, breaking a two-session winning run.

The euro rose to $1.2371, up from $1.2331 late Friday in New York, while the pound jumped to $1.4311 from $1.4239 on Friday. Sterling is now trading around its highest level since late January, according to FactSet data, and within striking distance of a new post-Brexit referendum high.

The dollar also declined against the yen , buying Yen107.18 compared with Yen107.35 on Friday.

The Hong Kong dollar traded slightly lower as the Hong Kong Monetary Authority took action after the currency slumped and struggled to stay within its permitted trading band against the dollar. The HKMA bought $3.59 billion Hong Kong dollars ($457.33 million) on Monday, having already snapped up $9.664 billion of Hong Kong dollars last week to prop up the currency. A U.S. dollar traded at $7.8502 Hong Kong dollars on Monday, compared with $7.8499 late Friday.

The ruble initially slumped but then recovered, shaken by news the U.S. is poised to impose more sanctions on Russia . Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations said the new sanctions will target companies tied to the Syrian regime and its chemical weapons. The buck bought 61.992 rubles, down from 62.349 on Friday, but is still up almost 8% against the Russian currency over the past month. The looming new sanctions are viewed as an American effort to punish Russia for backing the Syrian regime.

Check out:Russian stocks slip as traders brace for another round of U.S. sanctions

What is driving the market?

Traders largely shrugged off the increase in geopolitical risks in the Middle East, with analysts noting that the market viewed the U.S.-led Syrian strikes as an isolated event. Instead, the U.S. retail sales for March due at 8:30 a.m. Eastern Time were in focus, expected to spark a move in the dollar.

Economists polled by MarketWatch expect retail sales to have risen 0.4% in March after falling 0.1% in February.

What are strategists saying?

"It was a slow start of week's trade in the FX market with majors making only minor moves in absence of any significant newsflow. The bombing of Syrian targets proved to be a non-event as traders [took] it to be a one-off affair with U.S. unlikely to commit more resources to the region for the time being," said Boris Schlossberg, managing director of FX strategy BK Asset Management, in a note.

"Better-than-expected U.S. retail sales data could boost USDJPY, with resistance to advances potentially coming around last week's two-month high of 107.77 -- the area around this also includes the 108 round figure," said Marios Hadjikyriacos, investment analyst at XM, in a note.

"Rising geopolitical and/or trade uncertainty can also affect the pair, particularly pushing it lower. The opposite holds true as well," he added.

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