Big week for currency markets as central banks meet

By Tommy Wilkes

LONDON (Reuters) - Major currencies stuck to familiar ranges on Monday as investors shied away from taking out big positions ahead of a flurry of crucial economic data and central bank monetary policy meetings this week.

With the Bank of Japan ending a two-day meeting on Tuesday, the Federal Reserve concluding its meeting on Wednesday and the Bank of England expected to raise interest rates on Thursday, investors are preparing for a busy week that could set the near-term course for currencies.

The European Central Bank’s reaffirmation last week that rates would remain low through the summer of 2019 hurt the euro and the currency remained stuck around $1.1649 against the dollar in early European trading.

Euro zone inflation data due later on Monday and on Tuesday could help shake the currency out of its recent narrow range, analysts said, although investors appear reluctant to make large bets for now.

“It will be an active week, there is a lot of event risk,” said Manuel Oliveri, analyst at Credit Agricole. “Markets are pretty much range-bound and it doesn’t look like there is much motivation to enter big positions.”

Oliveri said that positioning data showed dollar net long positions remained at their largest for several months, and the greenback’s recent strength was vulnerable to a reversal of those positions.

The dollar index against a basket of six major currencies stood little changed at 94.717 after dipping slightly on Friday.

Upbeat second quarter U.S. gross domestic product data failed to lift the greenback, as markets had mostly priced in strong figures.

More important will be data that incorporates July, which is when tariffs against Chinese goods were activated.

The U.S. currency was 0.1 percent higher at 111.10 yen, with markets preparing to see whether the BOJ is considering taking steps to make its massive stimulus programme more sustainable.

Talk about what the BOJ might do includes the central bank possibly adjusting its yield-curve control and exchange-traded fund (ETF) buying schemes. The dollar has eased back from a six-month high above 113.00 yen scaled on July 19 after such speculation.

“While various speculations are being made over the BOJ, we believe they will stand pat on monetary policy. The focal point for us is whether the BOJ hints at future policy change,” said Shin Kadota, senior strategist at Barclays in Tokyo.

“Opinion about potential actions on Tuesday varies greatly, and the meeting could trigger a market reaction, no matter what the outcome is.”

The Chinese yuan continued to weaken. In offshore markets it fell to as low as 6.85 yuan per dollar, close to its one-year low reached last week, before settling around 6.833.

The yuan has been under relentless presure in recent months because of nervousness about what a dispute over trade with the United States will mean for the Chinese economy.

The Australian dollar declined 0.1 percent to $0.7397, while the Canadian dollar fell 0.1 percent to C$1.3065.

Additional reporting Shinichi Saoshiro in TOKYO; Editing by Kevin Liffey