Dollar swoons as Fed scales down rate hike forecasts

The dollar tumbled on Thursday, lifting world shares to their highest level of the year, after the US Federal Reserve scaled down its own expectations of the number of US rate hikes likely over the next nine months.

The Fed, via its 'dot plot' system, which charts what rate moves policymakers expect, effectively chopped those forecasts in half, from four hikes to two for the year.

It was a signal that triggered a slump in the dollar and a surge in risk appetite that rolled from Wall Street to Asia and then into Europe, where London .FTSE, Frankfurt .GDAXI and Paris .FCHI opened 0.5 to 0.8 percent higher and bond yields fell.

Commodity markets cheered too. Brent oil jumped over US$41 a barrel as a number of large producers also nailed down a date for an output freeze meeting. Industrial metals such s copper CMCU3 saw their biggest rise in two weeks.

But it was the currency markets that really grabbed the attention as the dollar sank to one-month and three-week lows against the euro EUR= and yen JPY=, and emerging market and oil and commodity-linked currencies surged.

"Risk is thoroughly on," said Societe Generale global head of currency strategy Kit Juckes. "All the chit chat was that they [the Fed] were going to be hawkish, and they weren't."

"The dollar is obviously the loser, but it's good for shares, it's good for oil, and good for debt too, I would say."

Europe's .FTEU3 solid start saw MSCI's 46-country All World share index .MIWD00000PUS climb over 1 percent on the day to reach its highest since January 4, the opening trading day for most major markets of the year.

For emerging markets, the news was even better, as a more than 2 percent surge took the volatile asset class's stocks MSCIEF to their highest since mid-December as currencies and debt rallied too.

One outlier was South Africa, though, ahead of a meeting of its central bank after another week in which the rand has been hammered by political worries.

Surging emerging

The Malaysian ringgit MYR=, Indonesian rupiah IDR= and South Korean won KRW= all rose more than 1 percent against the dollar as a clutch of Asian currencies hit multi-month peaks.

"In the past, when the dollar weakened after the Fed was dovish, the dollar weakness lasted for maybe about three to four months," said Tan Teck Leng, FX strategist for UBS chief investment office Wealth Management in Singapore.

"But is this the end of the strong dollar? We don't think so," he said, adding that the Fed could start sounding hawkish again around June and July to pave the way for a rate rise, possibly in September.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS climbed to a two-month high as Australian stocks added 1 percent, South Korea's Kospi .KS11 rose 0.9 percent and Shanghai .SSEC was up 1 percent.

The jump in the yen meant Japan's Nikkei .N225 lost out though, as it closed down 0.2 percent.

World growth concerns, particularly regarding China, have rattled markets through much of this year, and this was seen to have influenced the Fed's shift in position as it cited the "global risks" facing the US economy.

The dollar index slipped to a one-month low of 95.038 .DXY as European trading settled, and the euro was eyeing $1.13 EUR= for the first time since mid-January as the dollar also slid below 112 yen JPY=.

Commodity-linked currencies rose strongly as products such as oil and iron ore soared after the Fed's decision.

The Australian dollar, which had already jumped 1.2 percent overnight, caught a fresh lift from an upbeat local jobs report and rose to an eight-month high of $0.7620 AUD=D4.

The Canadian dollar was firm at just under C$1.30 to the US dollar CAD=D4 after rallying nearly 2 percent to a four-month peak of C$1.3094 overnight.

US crude oil rose to a three-month peak of $39.54 a barrel CLc1 after surging nearly 6 percent overnight. Brent LCOc1 was up 95 cents at $41.27 a barrel.

Three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange CMCU3 traded up 1.5 percent at $5,065 a tonne. A weaker greenback tends to favor commodities traded in dollars by making them cheaper for non-US buyers.

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