The euro edged higher on Friday after core inflation gauges in the euro zone held firm in June, with the single currency on track for its biggest monthly gain in 17 months on the back of broad-based dollar weakness. But analysts said policymakers would focus on the weak outlook for inflation with growing concerns about how much firepower the European Central bank could potentially roll out to support a struggling economy and boost prices.
Overall inflation held steady as expected at 1.2 percent in June, well short of the ECB target of almost 2 percent. But a closely watched 'core' figure, excluding volatile food and energy prices, jumped to 1.2 percent from 1 percent in May. ING strategists said headline inflation will continue to face downward pressure in the coming months as businesses have indicated softening expectations for selling prices on the back of economic uncertainty.
"The improved core inflation figure will therefore be easily brushed aside in the discussions about fresh ECB action: it's coming," they said in a note. Against the dollar, the single currency edged 0.2% higher at $1.1387. On a monthly basis, the euro is set to rise nearly 2%, its biggest monthly gain since February 2018. Versus the Swiss franc, the euro was broadly flat at 1.11 euros per franc.
While inflation expectations in the United States and Europe have declined in recent weeks, as measured by forward-starting swaps, US gauges have stabilised after the Federal Reserve opened the door to rate cuts last week. In comparison, policy interest rates in Europe are already in negative territory and Europe's most widely watched measure of inflation expectations - the five-year, five-year forward rate - has started declining again.
"The elbow-room for the ECB to ease policy is far more limited than the (US) Fed and that is weighing on the euro," said Esther Reichelt, FX strategist at Commerzbank. The dollar index, which measures the US currency against six of its peers, was at 96.097, broadly unchanged on the week. Markets are also hoping that a meeting between US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping at the G20 in the Japanese city of Osaka will bring progress on trade.
Negotiations between the world's two largest economies have been fraught, however, and traders and analysts caution that a resolution at the G20 summit is far from certain. Trump will meet Xi at 11:30 am. (0230 GMT) on Saturday. The dollar traded at 107.66 yen, little changed on the day but on course for a 0.3% gain this week as the greenback mounted a recovery from a five-month low of 106.77 yen reached on Tuesday.