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Dollar touches 2-week high, euro weaker as market bets on rate cuts



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Updated at 1533 GMT

By Hannah Lang and Samuel Indyk

WASHINGTON/LONDON, Dec 6 (Reuters) -The U.S. dollar touched a two-week high on Wednesday, while the euro was weak across the board as markets ramped up bets that the European Central Bank (ECB) will cut interest rates as early as March.

Although markets are still pricing at least 125 basis points of interest rate cuts from the U.S. Federal Reserve next year, the dollar was able to hold steady as rate cut bets for other central banks intensified.

The dollar index =USD, which measures the currency against six other majors, was last down 0.01% at 103.95, having touched a two-week high of 104.10 earlier.

The euro EUR=EBS was down 0.09% to $1.0785 after hitting a three-week low.

Traders are now betting that there is around an 85% chance that the ECB cuts interest rates at the March meeting, with almost 150 basis points worth of cuts priced by the end of next year. Influential ECB policymaker Isabel Schnabel on Tuesday told Reuters that further interest rate hikes could be taken off the table given a "remarkable" fall in inflation.

"Markets have aggressively priced in rate cuts, without any kind of confirmation from central banks," said Adam Button, chief currency analyst at ForexLive in Toronto. "As December continues, we need either a change in tune from central bankers or a repricing in markets."

The euro also touched a three-month low against the pound EURGBP=D3, a five-week low versus the yen EURJPY=EBS and a 6-1/2 week low against the Swiss franc EURCHF=EBS.


'A BIT OVERBOARD'

The ECB will set interest rates on Thursday next week and is all but certain to leave them at the current record high of 4%. The Fed and Bank of England are also likely to hold rates steady next Wednesday and Thursday respectively.

The Bank of Canada on Wednesday held its key overnight rate at 5% and, in contrast to its peers, left the door open to another hike, saying it was still concerned about inflation.

Traders have priced around a 60% chance of the U.S. central bank cutting rates in March, according to CME's FedWatch tool. FEDWATCH

The widely expected rate cuts from the Fed will result in the dollar loosening its grip on other G10 currencies next year, dimming the outlook for the greenback, according to a Reuters pollof foreign exchange strategists.

"Markets have gone a bit overboard with pricing in a very aggressive path of rate cuts through next year," said Aninda Mitra, head of Asia macro and investment strategy at BNY Mellon Investment Management, adding that there could be a snapback should the Fed drive home the message more forcefully that it is not about to cut rates anytime soon.

The spotlight in Asia was on China, as markets grappled with rating agency Moody's cut to the Asian giant's credit outlook.

The offshore Chinese yuan CNH=D3 fell 0.02% to $7.1719 per dollar, a day after Moody's cut China's credit outlook to "negative".

China's major state-owned banks stepped up U.S. dollar selling forcefully after the Moody's statement on Tuesday, and they continued to sell the greenback on Wednesday morning, Reuters reported.

Elsewhere in Asia, the Japanese yen JPY=D3 was 0.03% weaker versus the greenback at 147.18 per dollar. The Australian dollar AUD=D3 rose 0.5% to $0.6584.

In cryptocurrencies, bitcoin BTC=BTSP eased 0.3% to $43,943 having surged above $44,000 earlier in the session.

The world's largest cryptocurrency has gained 150% this year, fueled in part by optimism that a U.S. regulator will soon approve exchange-traded spot bitcoin funds (ETFs).



Reporting by Hannah Lang in Washington and Samuel Indyk in London; additional reporting by Ankur Banerjee in Singapore; Editing by Christina Fincher and Mark Potter

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