By Chuck Mikolajczak
NEW YORK (Reuters) - The dollar rose on Tuesday, after fluctuating between modest gains and declines earlier in the session as it held near a two-decade high ahead of a key reading on inflation that could provide clues on the Federal Reserve's monetary policy path.
Equities were also choppy and off their initial highs, although a drop in the yield on the benchmark U.S. 10-year note below the 3% level helped lift growth stocks and put the Nasdaq and S&P 500 on track to snap a three-day losing streak.
Investors will closely eye the April consumer price index reading on Wednesday for any signs inflation may be starting to cool, with expectations calling for a 8.1% annual increase compared to the 8.5% rise recorded in March.
"It’s the calm before inflation data tomorrow, so this is allowing a breather for risky assets," said Joe Manimbo, senior market analyst at Western Union Business Solutions in Washington, D.C.
"Nothing has materially improved when it comes to global growth, worries about China so the market is just seeing there is an occasion before the inflation data tomorrow and there is a little bit of positioning going on and that is working in the favor of risk assets."
The dollar index rose 0.203% at 103.900, with the euro down 0.24% to $1.053.
The greenback has climbed nearly 9% this year to reach 20-year highs as investors have gravitated towards the safe haven on concerns about the Fed's ability to tamp down inflation without causing a recession, along with worries about slowing growth arising from the war in Ukraine and rising COVID-19 cases in China.
After the Fed raised its benchmark overnight interest rate by 50 basis points last week, the largest hike in 22 years, investors have been attempting to assess how aggressive the central bank will be. Expectations are completely priced in for another hike of at least 50 basis points at the central bank's June meeting, according to CME's FedWatch Tool https://www.cmegroup.com/trading/interest-rates/countdown-to-fomc.html?redirect=/trading/interest-rates/fed-funds.html.
Multiple Fed officials on Tuesday echoed the need for a 50 basis point hike at the next meeting. Cleveland Federal Reserve Bank President Loretta Mester on Tuesday said raising interest rates in half-point increments "makes perfect sense" for the next couple of Fed meetings.
New York Fed President John Williams said that Chair Jerome Powell's indication the central bank will hike by half a percentage point at the next two policy meetings is sensible.
In addition, Federal Reserve Governor Christopher Waller said now is the time to "hit it" on raising rates to deal with too-high inflation and an "out of whack" labor market.
"They've been so hawkish so any slight move off that the market wants to sniff that out," said Matthew Miskin, co-chief investment strategist at John Hancock Investment Management in Boston.
"Sentiment-wise a lot of people are looking for capitulation. The dots aren't completely connecting yet for that."
The Japanese yen weakened 0.12% versus the greenback at 130.42 per dollar, while Sterling was last trading at $1.2315, down 0.13% on the day.
In cryptocurrencies, Bitcoin last rose 2.22% to $31,627.41 after falling below the $30,000 mark for the first time since July.
Ethereum last rose 3.92% to $2,380.61.
(Additional reporting by Sinéad Carew, Editing by William Maclean and Cynthia Osterman)