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Dollar firms after hawkish Fed as sterling sinks; focus on U.S. jobs

Illustration shows U.S. Dollar banknotes

By Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The dollar gained against major currencies on Thursday after Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell signalled U.S. interest rates will likely peak at a higher level than markets expected, while sterling fell after the Bank of England raised rates but warned of a "very challenging outlook."

The BoE lifted UK interest rates to 3% from 2.25% in its largest single increase since 1989, as it battles the twin forces of a slowing economy and red-hot inflation.

The central bank forecasts inflation will hit a 40-year high 11% during the current quarter, but it pushed back against expectations for further steep rate hikes. The bank said Britain has already entered a recession that could potentially last two years, longer than during the 2008-09 financial crisis.

The Fed on Wednesday raised interest rates by 75 basis points to a target range of 3.75%-4.00%, the fourth such increase in a row, as Powell dampened hopes of a pivot to an easier monetary policy.

"It is very premature to be thinking about pausing" on the effort to lift the federal funds target rate, Powell said in a news conference on Wednesday.

Juan Perez, director of trading at Monex USA in Washington, said the dollar's dominance will continue "as thoughts of a recession grow for the global economy, which will drive more flight to safety bids towards the buck."

The futures markets on Thursday has priced in U.S. rates peaking at 5.15% at the June meeting in 2023, which was up from about 4.9% initially expected in May.

In afternoon trading, the euro fell 0.6% against the dollar to $0.9758. That pushed the dollar index up 0.7% on the day at 112.86. Earlier, it touched 113.15, its highest since Oct. 21.

The higher terminal rate "may postpone the U.S. dollar peak that we've been expecting by 1-3 months," wrote BMO Capital currency strategists Greg Anderson and Stephen Gallo.

Thursday's data showed a U.S. economy that still seemed to be humming along. The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits unexpectedly fell to a seasonally adjusted 217,000 for the week ended Oct. 29, while nonfarm productivity, which measures hourly output per worker, rose at a 0.3% annualized rate last quarter after slumping at a 4.1% pace in the April-June quarter.

The market is now focused on Friday's U.S. non-farm payrolls report for October, with Wall Street economists forecasting 200,000 new jobs and 3.6% unemployment rate, according to a Reuters poll.

"That would still be much too strong to change the Fed's tightening plans, although we suspect the average hourly earnings data will show a further gradual slowdown in wage growth, which the surveys suggest has further to fall," said Andrew Hunter, senior U.S. economist at Capital Economics.

The pound dropped to a two-week low against the dollar and a one-week trough versus the euro in wake of the BoE statement. Sterling was last down nearly 2% against the dollar at $1.1165, while the euro rose 1.4% to 87.37 pence.

The BoE's decision - the biggest rate rise in 33 years apart from a failed attempt to support the pound on Black Wednesday in 1992 - was in line with economists' expectations in a Reuters poll, but was not unanimous.

The pound, like most major currencies, had already been on the backfoot against the dollar on Thursday.

The dollar rose 0.2% against the yen to 148.205 yen, as traders continue to watch for any further official intervention to shore up the battered Japanese currency.

Japan spent a record $42.8 billion propping up the yen last month via a series of unannounced purchases, after spending almost $20 billion in September.

========================================================

Currency bid prices at 3:36PM (1936 GMT)

Description RIC Last U.S. Close Pct Change YTD Pct High Bid Low Bid

Previous Change

Session

Dollar index 112.8300 112.1400 +0.63% 17.945% +113.1500 +111.8100

Euro/Dollar $0.9760 $0.9816 -0.57% -14.14% +$0.9839 +$0.9730

Dollar/Yen 148.2150 147.9350 +0.20% +28.76% +148.4400 +147.1200

Euro/Yen 144.65 145.23 -0.40% +11.00% +145.3500 +144.0500

Dollar/Swiss 1.0121 1.0032 +0.91% +10.98% +1.0147 +1.0006

Sterling/Dollar $1.1167 $1.1390 -1.93% -17.41% +$1.1421 +$1.1156

Dollar/Canadian 1.3726 1.3715 +0.09% +8.57% +1.3808 +1.3683

Aussie/Dollar $0.6304 $0.6348 -0.68% -13.26% +$0.6372 +$0.6273

Euro/Swiss 0.9878 0.9849 +0.29% -4.74% +0.9893 +0.9831

Euro/Sterling 0.8737 0.8618 +1.38% +4.01% +0.8742 +0.8608

NZ $0.5785 $0.5819 -0.59% -15.49% +$0.5838 +$0.5744

Dollar/Dollar

Dollar/Norway 10.5525 10.4510 +1.08% +19.92% +10.6360 +10.4420

Euro/Norway 10.3038 10.2713 +0.32% +2.91% +10.3665 +10.2421

Dollar/Sweden 11.1730 11.0951 +0.08% +23.90% +11.2405 +11.0764

Euro/Sweden 10.9058 10.8973 +0.08% +6.56% +10.9415 +10.8937

(Reporting by Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss; Additional reporting by Amanda Cooper and Joice Alves in London, Tom Westbrook in Sydney and Ankur Banerjee; Editing by Kim Coghill, Susan Fenton and Andrea Ricci)