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Dollar Little Changed After Fed Minutes


The dollar got off to a positive start Wednesday, but has gradually pared its gains as the day has progressed. The currency has also had little reaction to the release of the minutes from the last Federal Reserve meeting.

The Federal Reserve is on track to raise interest rates gradually over the course of the year, according to the minutes of the central bank's most recent meeting.

Markets were paying close attention for any hints that policy will be different under new Fed Chair Jerome Powell, who replaced Janet Yellen at the behest of President Donald Trump.

However, the minutes were a yawner. They firmly imply that the Fed still plans to raise interest rates three times in 2018, with the first of these modest rate hikes coming in March.

Existing home sales in the U.S. unexpectedly showed a steep drop in the month of January, according to a report released by the National Association of Realtors on Wednesday. NAR said existing home sales tumbled by 3.2 percent to an annual rate of 5.38 million in January from a downwardly revised 5.56 million in December.

The decrease surprised economists, who had expected existing home sales to climb to a rate of 5.60 million from the 5.57 million originally reported for the previous month.

The dollar rose to an early high of $1.2298 against the Euro Wednesday, but has since eased back to around $1.2325.

Eurozone private sector growth continued to rise at a steep pace in February, albeit with the rate of expansion cooling from the near 12-year high in January, flash data from IHS Markit showed Wednesday. The composite output index dropped to 57.5 from 58.8 in the previous month. The score was forecast to fall to 58.4.

Germany's private sector expanded strongly in February but the pace of growth slowed from a near seven-year high seen in January, flash data from IHS Markit showed Wednesday. The composite output index dropped unexpectedly to a 3-month low of 57.4 from 59.0 in January. The reading was expected to rise to 59.2.

France's private sector expanded at the slowest pace in four months in February, flash survey data from IHS Markit showed Wednesday. The composite output index fell more-than-expected to 57.8 from 59.6 in January. The indicator signaled the slowest growth since October 2017 and stayed below the forecast of 59.2.

The buck climbed to a high of $1.3902 against the pound sterling Wednesday morning, but has since retreated to around $1.3960.

The UK jobless rate increased in the fourth quarter, data from the Office for National Statistics showed Wednesday.

The ILO unemployment rate rose by 0.1 percentage points to 4.4 percent in three months to December. In the same period of last year, the rate was 4.8 percent. The rate was forecast to remain unchanged at 4.3 percent.

The UK budget balance showed surplus in January, the Office for National Statistics showed Wednesday. Public sector net borrowing, excluding public sector banks, was in GBP 10 billion surplus in January. This was the second highest January surplus on record. Economists had forecast a surplus of GBP 9.6 billion.

The greenback reached an early high of Y107.903 against the Japanese Yen Wednesday, but has slipped to around Y107.625 this afternoon.

Japan's manufacturing activity grew at a slightly slower pace in February, flash data from IHS Markit showed Wednesday. The Nikkei flash manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index fell to 54.0 in February from 54.8 in January.

Japan's all industry activity growth halved in December, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry reported Wednesday.

The all industry activity index rose 0.5 percent month-on-month in December, following November's 1 percent increase. Nonetheless, this was the third consecutive increase in activity and bigger than the expected 0.4 percent rise.

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