Dollar struggles in Asia as China faces trade uncertainty

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HONG KONG: The dollar struggled to break back after its recent sell-off as investors fret over Donald Trump’s lack of specifics on economic policy.

There was muted reaction to end-of-the-year data from China showing the world’s number-two economy was still struggling on the trade front, with uncertainty over Trump’s upcoming presidency.

After a global rally fueled by hopes his election victory would see a boost to the US economy, trading floors are turning more quiet with talk that the surge may have been overdone.

Among the main losers in the recent pull-back is the dollar, which soared on expectations the real estate tycoon’s plans for big spending and tax cuts would fan inflation and force the Federal Reserve to lift interest rates.


The dollar just last week was hovering around 118.60 yen but on Thursday dropped below 114 yen after markets were left with scan detail on the president-elect’s plans for boosting US growth.

The greenback has recovered slightly but remains under pressure while it was also down against the euro and pound.

“This is really a pause that we were looking to get even a month ago,” Philip Guarco, global head of fixed-income strategy at JPMorgan Private Bank in New York, told Bloomberg TV.

“Rates had moved too far, too fast so we had this sort of reflation exuberance. I think we consolidate here and just wait to see what’s going to happen in terms of execution.”

However, Stephen Innes, senior trader at OANDA, said he expected “the market to reload (dollar) long positions ahead Trump’s inauguration and State of the Union (next Friday) where once again traders will brace for confirmation on the fiscal spend.”

Equity traders were given a weak lead from Wall Street, where the Dow’s drive for the 20,000-point mark has stalled.

Tokyo’s Nikkei ended 0.8 higher after losing more than one percent Thursday but Sydney lost 0.8 percent and Seoul 0.5 percent. Singapore added 0.8 percent but Wellington and Taipei were lower.

Hong Kong added 0.4 percent in the afternoon but Shanghai closed down 0.2 percent. There was little excitement over news that Chinese exports fell more than expected last month while imports came in largely as expected.

Figures for the whole year showed exports down 7.7 percent and imports dropping 5.5 percent.

The disappointing figures come as the country tries to position itself as a leader of the global trade regime in anticipation of an American retreat under the proudly protectionist Trump, who has promised to tear up global deals.

“There remain some obstacles facing China’s foreign trade development,” Customs spokesman Huang Songping told reporters at a news conference announcing the results, adding the international trading environment was “severe and complex.”

Next week sees the release of economic growth data for the whole year.

 

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