Euro Steady Vs. Dollar, With ECB Update In Sight

The euro held steady against the U.S. dollar Thursday, with investors set to hear what the president of the European Central Bank might say about efforts to aid the beleaguered euro-zone economy.

The euro   traded at $1.309, nearly unchanged from its late Wednesday level in North America.

The ECB is widely expected to hold its main lending rate at the record low 0.5%, where it was left last month after a quarter-point cut by policy makers.

But with the euro zone’s central bank expected to reduce its economic forecasts, investors will want to know from ECB President Mario Draghi what steps — if any — it will take to try to pull the region out of recession.

Draghi may signal the ECB is now open to pushing its deposit rate into negative territory to jump-start economic activity, analysts say. The deposit rate, which currently stands at zero, is the rate the ECB pays on reserves held at the central bank, and a negative rate could encourage more lending by banks.

Other options may include cutting reserve requirements, Crédit Agricole said to clients ahead of ECB meeting.

“Arguably, another refi-rate cut could be part of the response to a weaker economic background and/or larger [long-term refinancing operations] repayments,” said Crédit Agricole senior euro-zone economist Frederik Ducrozet.

“However, given that the ECB will likely continue to expect a modest recovery to take shape in the second half, we view it as more likely that the Governing Council refrains from pulling the trigger in the end,” he wrote.

The ECB is slated to announce its policy decision at 1:45 p.m. Frankfurt time (7:45 a.m. U.S. Eastern time), followed by Draghi’s monthly news conference at 8:30 a.m. U.S. Eastern time.

The Bank of England is also scheduled to meet Thursday and is expected to hold its benchmark rate at 0.5%. The meeting will also mark the last with Mervyn King as governor. King will be succeeded by outgoing Bank of Canada Gov. Mark Carney.

The British pound  pulled back to $1.5393 from $1.5402 late Wednesday.

The ICE dollar index  , a gauge that measures the greenback’s performance against six other currencies, rose to 82.593 from 82.561.

The WSJ Dollar Index  , a rival measure that tracks the buck against a larger basket of currencies, rose to 74.42 from 74.30.

Still struggling was the Australian dollar  , which on Thursday broke below 95 U.S. cents to its lowest level since early October 2011.

The move came as data showed Australia’s trade surplus drastically narrowed in April. The trade account was 28 million Australian dollars ($26.6 million) in surplus, compared with an A$555 million surplus in March, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said.

The Aussie was buying 94.57 U.S. cents, down from 95.36 U.S. cents on Wednesday.

Against the yen, the U.S. dollar  fetched ¥99.14, roughly in line from Wednesday, when the greenback fell to its weakest level against Japan’s currency since early May.