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Dollar holds gains as Fed looms, Asia markets mostly drop

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PHOTO:AFP

The dollar on Wednesday maintained most of its recent gains ahead of a key Federal Reserve policy announcement, while Asian equity markets struggled as investors returned from public holidays across the region.

Technology stocks were mixed, even after Apple released better-than-expected earnings that soothed worries about iPhone sales.

As trading floors reopened after the Labour Day break, attention was on the Fed’s policy decision later Wednesday.

While the central bank is not expected to lift interest rates, its post-meeting statement will be parsed for clues to its plans and any idea of a timetable for future hikes with opinions split on whether it will announce three or four more this year. That is followed by the release Friday of closely watched US jobs data.

A broadly positive outlook for the US economy, along with easing geopolitical and trade worries, has provided some lift to the dollar.

The greenback is testing the 110 yen mark for the first time since the start of February while it has also surged against the pound as the Bank of England puts its own plans for a rate hike on the back-burner.

It is also building on gains against higher-yielding currencies including the Australian dollar, Indonesian rupiah, Mexican peso and Thai baht. The South Korean won was also in retreat after enjoying a rally on the back of Friday’s North-South Korea summit.

“The US dollar bulls continued to lead the charge as traders remain centred favourably on the entrenched US data flow… relative to that from other major economies that are cooling quickly,” said Stephen Innes, head of Asia-Pacific trading at OANDA.

“It’s now over to the (Fed policy committee) to hold up their side of the bargain as so far, the heavy lifting for the greenback has fallen on the global central bank community, which has turned dovish on the first hint of economic slack.”

Wall Street’s three main indexes ended mixed with analysts warning the strong earnings season could be be a high mark for the year.

Iran dead in view
The Nikkei in Tokyo ended 0.2 percent lower and Hong Kong slipped 0.3 percent. Shanghai and Singapore were marginally down, while Taipei, Manila, Bangkok and Jakarta fell.

However, Sydney rose 0.6 percent and Wellington climbed 0.7 percent.

In early European trade London added 0.3 percent, Paris fell 0.2 percent and Frankfurt was flat.

Technology firms won some welcome support after Apple reported a hefty jump in second-quarter earnings and unveiled a new $100 billion share buyback plan, while boss Tim Cook was optimistic about the outlook.

The news soothed recent worries about the iPhone-maker, which is a major customer for suppliers in the region, though tech stocks in the region were mixed in the afternoon as an early rally in some faded.

Traders are keeping tabs on trade developments as a high-level US trade delegation heads to China this week for talks. The meetings come after President Donald Trump decided Monday to extend exemptions for the European Union, Canada and Mexico from steel and aluminium tariffs announced in March.

Oil prices bounced slightly from Tuesday’s sell-off but record US production, a stronger dollar and rising stockpile levels capped gains.

But attention is on Trump’s May 12 deadline for deciding on whether to scrap a nuclear deal with Iran.

“The Iran sanctions deal issue has not gone away because what the president does about the deal is still a potential flashpoint,” said Greg McKenna, an analyst at AxiTrader.

“My sense is he’ll renegotiate or seek to. And I’m not sure that’s enough to drive prices up and through the recent range highs.”

– Key figures around 0810 GMT –
Tokyo – Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.2 percent at 22,472.78 (close)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng: DOWN 0.3 at 30,723.88 (close)

Shanghai – Composite: FLAT at 3,081.18 (close)

London – FTSE 100: UP 0.3 percent at 7,540.77

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.3608 from $1.3617 at 2100 GMT

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.2004 from $1.9994

Dollar/yen: UP at 109.88 yen from 109.87

Oil – West Texas Intermediate: UP 40 cents at $67.65

Oil – Brent North Sea: UP 17 cents at $73.30 per barrel

New York – Dow: DOWN 0.3 percent at 24,099.05 (close)


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