The euro came under fresh pressure after data showed Germany’s private sector shrank in June for the second month running, with manufacturing activity hitting a three-year low.
This suggested Europe’s largest economy may contract in the second quarter as the euro zone debt crisis intensified, and offset data from France which showed a slowdown in business activity there had eased.
Overall, the data made grim reading and kept alive speculation the European Central Bank will cut interest rates, offering investors a fresh excuse to sell the euro.
“After the Fed there was a bit of disappointment for the market but at least they extended Operation Twist,” said Lutz Karpowitz, currency strategist at Commerzbank.
“Today we will have choppy, sideways moves. The market is looking for central bank action or any news regarding the European debt crisis.”
The euro dropped 0.2 percent to $1.2674, having hit a high of $1.2744 on Wednesday. Bids from sovereign investors and macro funds were cited below $1.2620. Offers were reported above $1.2700 and stop-loss orders above $1.2720, traders said.
The dollar regained lost ground after the Fed stopped short of launching a more aggressive programme of buying bonds outright, or QE3, which some in the market had expected.
Policymakers expanded “Operation Twist”, under which the Fed sells short-term securities to buy longer-term ones to keep long-term borrowing costs down, by $267 billion. The programme, which was due to expire this month, will run until the end of the year.
The dollar index, a measure of the greenback’s performance against a basket of currencies, rose 0.1 percent to 81.595. The dollar rose to a 1-month high at 79.958 yen, getting some support after U.S. Treasury yields edged up on Wednesday.
Analysts said the dollar’s outlook was clouded, with more players likely to position for fresh Fed stimulus after the central bank downgraded its U.S. growth forecast.
SPAIN IN FOCUS
Many analysts said the Fed was probably saving ammunition given the risk the euro zone crisis could deteriorate in coming weeks as borrowing costs in peripheral countries remain high.
Spain’s borrowing hit a new euro era high at an auction on Thursday, a few hours before it sheds light on the state of its banks and possibly makes a formal request for funds to bail out the sector.
“What we had from the Fed is that further easing is still likely but the market is a bit uncertain about how that easing will come,” said Michael Sneyd, FX strategist at BNP Paribas.
“We think euro/dollar can squeeze higher from here but we prefer being long commodity currencies against the dollar.”
Growth-linked currencies came under pressure, digesting the Fed decision and weak Chinese data. The Australian dollar fell 0.2 percent to $1.0170, retreating from a seven-week high of $1.0225 hit on Wednesday.
The Aussie dollar hit an intraday low after a private-sector survey showed China’s factory sector contracted for an eighth successive month in June, with export orders at their weakest since early 2009.
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