By Caroline Valetkevitch

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The dollar fell to its lowest level in more than two weeks against a basket of currencies on Monday following recent strong gains, as investors grew nervous ahead of U.S. inflation data and as central banks outside of the United States appeared increasingly hawkish.

The euro climbed to more than a three-week high against the dollar, with European Central Bank officials arguing for further aggressive monetary tightening.

Strategists said the release on Tuesday of the monthly U.S. consumer price index report will be closely watched for clues on how aggressive the Federal Reserve may need to be in hiking interest rates next week to fight high inflation.

The Federal Open Market Committee – the Fed’s policy-setting arm – is expected at its Sept. 20-21 meeting to raise the central bank’s benchmark overnight lending rate again from the current range of 2.25%-2.50%.

The dollar index, which measures the currency against six major counterparts, has been strengthening on expectations of an aggressive Fed and reached a two-decade peak of 110.79 last Wednesday. On Monday, it was down 0.4% on the day at 108.31 after hitting its lowest since Aug. 26.

“It’s been a break in the dollar’s relentless rise,” said Joe Manimbo, senior market analyst at Convera. “What’s behind that basically is improved risk sentiment, hawkish central banks from abroad and hopes that U.S. inflation will suggest that the worst is behind us, (with) consumer prices coming out tomorrow.”

“One of the things that’s helped to limit bouts of dollar weakness is signs of a resilient U.S. economy,” Manimbo added.

The New York Fed’s monthly consumer expectations survey showed on Monday that U.S. consumers’ inflation expectations slid further in August as gasoline prices extended their steep decline from June’s record high, a development likely to be bring some relief to U.S. central bank officials who have been worrying that the highest inflation in 40 years might change consumers’ perceptions of how sticky the current price shocks may be.

The euro rose against the dollar to its highest level since Aug. 17. It hit a 20-year trough of $0.9862 last week.

The euro was last up 0.7% at $1.0117.

ECB policymakers see increasing risks that the central bank will need to hike its key interest rate to 2% or more to curb record inflation in the euro zone, sources told Reuters.

At the same time, the Ifo institute said on Monday, in a U-turn from its forecast three months prior, that Germany’s economy will contract next year as a dramatic rise in energy costs due to the Ukraine war extinguishes the chances of recovery after COVID-19 lockdowns.

Against the dollar, sterling was last trading at $1.1681, up 0.8% on the day and up from last week’s 37-year low.

The dollar was up slightly against the Japanese yen, at 142.75 yen, but off its 24-year high of 144.99 hit last week.

Over the weekend, Japanese officials hinted at intervention to stop the currency from weakening further. A senior government spokesman said in a local television interview that the administration must take steps as needed to counter excessive yen declines.

The Australian dollar was 0.6% higher at $0.6883.

In cryptocurrencies, bitcoin last rose 2.69% to $22,422.00, while Ethereum was down 2.3% at $1,726.

Investors will be watching the area as the Ethereum blockchain is due to merge with a separate blockchain, altering the way it processes transactions and how new ether tokens are created.

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