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Dollar Mixed As Investors Consider Powell's Comments

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The dollar is up against its major European rivals Wednesday afternoon, but is down against the Japanese Yen. Traders continue to react to yesterday's testimony by Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell, his first before Congress since taking over the job.

Powell acknowledged that the economy is strengthening and inflation is moving up, which may trigger the policy makers to rethink their plan for three hikes.

"My personal outlook for the economy has strengthened since December," Powell said. "I wouldn't want to prejudge that new set of projections, but we'll be taking into account everything that's happened since December."

Powell is due to testify before the Senate Banking Committee tomorrow morning.

Revised data released by the Commerce Department on Wednesday showed slightly slower than previously estimated U.S. economic growth in the fourth quarter of 2017.

The report said gross domestic product climbed by 2.5 percent in the fourth quarter compared to the previously estimated 2.6 percent increase. The downward revision to GDP growth matched economist estimates.

Growth in Chicago-area business activity slowed by much more than anticipated in the month of February, according to a report released by MNI Indicators on Wednesday.

MNI Indicators said its Chicago Business Barometer dropped to 61.9 in February from 65.7 in January. While a reading above 50 still indicates growth, economists had expected the index to show a more modest drop to 64.2.

Pending home sales in the U.S. unexpectedly showed a steep drop in the month of January, the National Association of Realtors revealed in a report on Wednesday. NAR said its pending home sales index tumbled by 4.7 percent to 104.6 in January from a downwardly revised 109.8 in December. Economists had expected pending home sales to rise by 0.3 percent.

The dollar has risen to around $1.2210 against the Euro Wednesday afternoon, from an early low of $1.2241.

Eurozone inflation slowed to a 14-month low in February on food and energy prices, flash data from Eurostat showed Wednesday.

Inflation eased to 1.2 percent from 1.3 percent in January. This was the third consecutive slowdown and the weakest since December 2012, when prices gained 1.1 percent. Nonetheless, the rate came in line with expectations.

Germany's consumer confidence is set to weaken in March, survey data from the market research group GfK showed Wednesday. The forward-looking consumer sentiment index dropped 0.2 points to 10.8 in March. The score was below the expected 10.9 points.

Germany's unemployment decreased notably in February, reports said citing data from Federal Labor Agency on Wednesday. The jobless claims decreased by 22,000 in February from the previous month, compared to the expected fall of 15,000.

The jobless rate came in at 5.4 percent, which was the lowest since reunification in 1990.

France's economy grew more than previously estimated in 2017, second estimate from the statistical office Insee showed Wednesday. In 2017 as a whole, economic growth improved to 2 percent from 1.1 percent in 2016. The rate for 2017 was revised up from 1.9 percent.

France's inflation slowed marginally in February, provisional estimate from the statistical office Insee showed Wednesday.

Consumer price inflation slowed to 1.2 percent in February from 1.3 percent in the previous month. The rate was forecast to rise to 1.4 percent. This slowdown resulted from a lesser rise in prices of services, food and tobacco.

French consumer spending declined for the second straight month in January, defying economists' expectations for an increase, figures from the statistical office INSEE showed Wednesday. Consumer spending fell 1.9 percent month-over-month in January, faster than the 1.2 percent drop in December. Meanwhile, economists had forecast a 0.4 percent rebound for the month.

The buck has climbed to around $1.3775 against the pound sterling this afternoon, from a low of $1.3915.

Consumer confidence in the United Kingdom weakened slightly in February, the latest survey from GfK showed on Wednesday with an index score of -10. That was in line with expectations and down from -9 in January.

The greenback has declined to around Y106.700 against the Japanese Yen this afternoon, from an early high of Y107.526.

Industrial production in Japan contracted a seasonally adjusted 6.6 percent on month in January, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said in Wednesday's preliminary reading. That missed forecasts for a decline of 4.0 percent following the 2.9 percent gain in December.

Retail sales in Japan were down a seasonally adjusted 1.8 percent on month in January, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said on Wednesday. That missed forecasts for a decline of 0.6 percent following the 0.9 percent gain in December.

Japan's housing starts logged a double-digit decline at the start of the year, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism said Wednesday. Housing starts decreased 13.2 percent year-on-year in January, faster than the 2.1 percent drop in December and the expected 4.7 percent decrease.

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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