Most Asia markets up but dollar weighed by uncertainty


HONG KONG: Most Asian markets rose Tuesday following the previous day’s retreat, but the dollar was hit by fresh uncertainty over Donald Trump’s economic policy and contradictory views on future rate rises among two top Federal Reserve officials.

Global stocks had started the week with a wobble after G20 finance chiefs failed to renew a longstanding anti-protectionist pledge in the face of Trump’s “America First” push, fuelling fears about the international trade system.

But investors returned to buying in Asian business Tuesday, with Hong Kong closing up 0.4 percent —marking four days of gains that have pushed the Hang Seng Index to its highest level since July 2015.

Sydney was flat, Shanghai closed 0.3 percent higher, while Seoul jumped one percent and Singapore barely moved. Taipei, Wellington, Jakarta, Bangkok and Manila were all higher.

But Tokyo lost 0.3 percent as traders returned from a long weekend to find the yen had strengthened significantly against the dollar.

The greenback was at 112.70 yen, up from New York but well off the 113.33 yen mark seen when the Nikkei was last open Friday.

The dollar has come in for heavy selling since the Federal Reserve on Wednesday raised borrowing costs but pointed to another two rises this year, confounding talk of a possible three or four.

Action to inaction

On Monday Chicago Fed President Charles Evans suggested there could be more increases this year but Minneapolis boss Neel Kashkari said the policy board should take its time.

The uncertainty surrounding US policy comes as investors await details on Trump’s promise to boost infrastructure spending and slash taxes to fire up the economy.

World markets surged after his November election on expectations he would push the plans through but the
lack of anything substantial since then has spooked some.

Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst at OANDA, said in a note: “Post (Fed decision) the markets’ attention has turned again to the Trump administration’s lack of concrete policy announcements.

“With the new administration’s 100 days of action rapidly turning into 100 days of inaction, extended dollar reflationist long positioning has started heading for the door.”

The dollar was also struggling against most other high-yielding units, with the South Korean won up 0.2 percent and the Mexican peso 0.4 percent higher.

The euro edged up as markets breathed a sigh of relief that centrist Emmanuel Macron came out on top in the first French presidential debate Monday, seeing off his closest rival, the far-right, anti-EU candidate Marine Le Pen.

In early European trade London rose 0.1 percent, Paris gained 0.4 percent and Frankfurt was 0.3 percent higher. AFP


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