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Euro soars as Draghi gives bulls green light, bond yields hit 6-month high

By Reuters - Jan 25,2018 - Last updated at Jan 25,2018

European Central Bank President Mario Draghi holds a news conference following the governing council's interest rate decision at the ECB headquarters in Frankfurt, Germany, on Thursday (Reuters photo)

LONDON — The euro briefly shot past $1.25 to a three-year high on Thursday, after European Central Bank (ECB) President Mario Draghi said the central bank did not target foreign exchange rates when asked about the strength of the single currency.

An upbeat tone on the economy and the medium-term outlook for inflation helped send bond yields in Germany, the bloc's biggest economy, to their highest level in around six months.

Speaking at a press conference following an ECB meeting, Draghi said that recent currency volatility was a source of uncertainty but he did not express outright unease with the euro's strength. 

The euro surged to $1.2538, its highest level since December 2014, before slipping back to trade at $1.2498, up 0.7 per cent. The single currency was flat before Draghi started speaking. 

With the euro touching a series of 3-year highs in recent days, some traders were expecting Draghi to talk down the single currency, given its rise could squeeze the competitiveness of eurozone exporters down the line and pull down inflation. 

On a trade-weighted basis, the euro's rise is far less marked, however. 

"Euro [has broken] higher on no verbal intervention," said Mizuho's head of hedge fund FX sales, Neil Jones. "We were looking for it but we didn't get it. It appears Mnuchin's comments were more verbal intervention than Draghi's."

Draghi said the ECB might have to review strategy if US comments on a weak dollar lead to a change in monetary conditions.

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Wednesday that he welcomed the weaker dollar because it was "good for us". His remarks extended the US currency's recent slide.

The euro is now up 4 per cent against the dollar in 2018, and 7.2 per cent over the last six months. 

Europe's single currency also rose as much as 0.4 per cent against sterling after earlier trading flat. 

 

Bond yields jump

 

Analysts said that Draghi not talking down the euro, as well as positive comments on the economy, sparked a sell-off in government bonds.

"What is striking is that he's trying his best to push out rate hike expectations but the market appears to be ignoring that," said Kim Liu, senior fixed income strategist at ABN AMRO.

German government bond yields rose to their highest levels in around six months, reversing early falls. The German 10-year Bund yield rose as high as 0.579 per cent and was set for its biggest one-day rise in two weeks.

Two-year bond yields hit minus 0.56 per cent. 

French 10-year bond yields also attained a 6-month high around 0.9270 per cent, while 10-year borrowing costs across the euro area were 2-5 basis points higher on the day. 

Spain's 10-year bond yield was up 5 basis points, set for its biggest daily jump in over a month.

 

Mizuho rates strategist Antoine Bouvet said the sell-off in bonds was also caused by Draghi's emphasis on the size of the central bank's balance sheet, which was supportive for the economy, rather than its asset purchase flows. 

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