Dollar, stocks drop in Asia as Fed fails to inspire

PHOTO: OSCAR SIAGIAN/AFP/Getty Images

The dollar suffered fresh losses on Thursday as Asian investors followed their New York counterparts in shifting out of the unit, unmoved by another interest rate hike and an upbeat assessment of the world’s top economy.

The fall in the greenback was mirrored in a broad sell-off in regional equities as traders ignored another record finish for the Dow on Wall Street.

The dollar was hit by selling after the much-anticipated central bank meeting, which provided little to excite buyers, despite tentative hopes US lawmakers are on course to push through market-friendly tax cuts.

The Fed lifted borrowing costs as expected and said economic growth would be stronger than initially forecast, while inflation would also improve. It also said its projections for three more rate rises next year were on course.

However, Marvin Loh, senior global market strategist at Bank of New York Mellon, told Bloomberg News: “Markets are generally interpreting the meeting as a dovish hike.

“The improved view in 2018 may be driven by tax reform, which will not have a long-lasting impact.”

A below-par reading on inflation added to selling in the dollar, which retreated against most other currencies in New York. It fell through the 113 yen mark, while the pound was above $1.34 and the euro broke $1.18.

And in Asia it continued to struggle, while the Australian dollar surged 1.4 percent, supported by a better-than-expected jobs reading from Canberra. There were also healthy gains for the South Korean won, South African rand and Mexican peso.

The yuan rose 0.1 percent, with some help from news that People’s Bank of China had lifted the interest rates it charges lenders. It similarly followed a Fed hike in March in a bid to prevent cash from flowing out of the country to chase better investment returns.

Greg McKenna, chief market strategist at AxiTrader, said the weakness in the dollar “suggests (investors) don’t believe the Fed’s outlook nor its rate projections”.

– Tax-cut hopes –
Adding to nervousness among traders was the Republicans’ shock loss in the Alabama senate election, which narrowed their majority to just two — fuelling concern that Donald Trump will struggle to push through many of his promised reforms.

However, there is hope his much-vaunted tax cuts will be passed before the Democrats’ newest senator takes his seat.

Reports said Wednesday that Republicans in both chambers of Congress had reached an agreement in principle on the massive tax bill, setting the stage for its final passage next week.

On equity markets Tokyo ended 0.3 percent lower as exporters were weighed by a stronger yen, while Shanghai dipped 0.3 percent and Singapore fell 0.8 percent.

Hong Kong gave up 0.2 percent, Sydney eased 0.2 percent and Seoul dropped 0.5 percent.

However, Taipei, Manila and Wellington were all in positive territory.

Oil prices edged up but only made a small dent in Wednesday’s losses, which came despite another report showing US inventories had fallen.

“That suggests a lot of, perhaps all, the current news about tightness in the oil market is already priced,” said McKenna.

There are also worries that an output cap agreed by major producers in OPEC and Russia could be lifted next year.

In early European trade London fell 0.2 percent, while Paris and Frankfurt each lost 0.1 percent.

– Key figures around 0820 GMT –
Tokyo – Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.3 percent at 22,694.45 (close)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng: DOWN 0.2 percent at 29,166.38 (close)

Shanghai – Composite: DOWN 0.3 percent at 3,292.44 (close)

London – FTSE 100: DOWN 0.2 percent at 7,482.16

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1832 from $1.1828 at 2200 GMT

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.3430 from $1.3415

Dollar/yen: UP at 112.67 yen from 112.56 yen

Oil – West Texas Intermediate: UP 14 cents at $56.74 per barrel

Oil – Brent North Sea: UP 41 cents at $62.85 per barrel

New York – DOW: UP 0.3 percent at 24,585.43 (close)

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