Tokyo, Hong Kong lead Asia gains but dollar retreats


HONG KONG, Oct 4, 2017 (BSS/AFP) – Tokyo and Hong Kong led gains on most markets in Asia Wednesday following a record close on Wall Street but the dollar eased slightly as attention begins to focus on the likely make-up of the new Federal Reserve board.

Investors are broadly upbeat about the global economic outlook and remain buoyed by the release last week of Donald Trump’s tax-cutting plans, while they are also looking ahead to the release of key jobs data on Friday.

With Fed boss Janet Yellen’s term due to end in February, investors will be closely watching for clues about Trump’s choice to take over — a decision expected to be made in two to three weeks.

The president has said he would decide after interviewing ex-board member Kevin Warsh, current governor Jerome Powell and two other candidates.

Analysts said the dollar would likely move in line with who is considered the favourite to take the helm, with Warsh seen as a fiscal hawk and Powell more in line with Yellen’s wait-and-see policy to monetary tightening.

“Markets rightly or wrongly came to the view late last week that Warsh was the front-runner, and viewed him — rightly or wrongly — as having more hawkish proclivities than Janet Yellen,” Ray Attrill, global co-head of foreign-exchange strategy at National Australia Bank in Sydney, told Bloomberg News.

But he added that talk of Powell taking the top post have “seen the dollar giving back a little of the gains” from last week.

The next key driver for forex traders will be the release of payrolls figures on Friday, which could provide more of a clue about the Fed’s plans for raising interest rates.

In early Asian trade the greenback was down against the yen and pound, while it also backtracked against most other high-yielding currencies including the Australian dollar, South Korean won and the Mexican peso.

It was up slightly against the euro but the single currency has come under pressure from political concerns as Spain is wracked with turmoil over Catalonia’s independence vote.

On equity markets the Nikkei in Tokyo ended the morning 0.2 percent higher, building on Tuesday’s gains to sit at more than two-year highs.

Hong Kong was up 0.8 percent, while Wellington, Manila and Jakarta all climbed. But Sydney dipped 0.7 percent and Singapore was 0.3 percent off.

– Key figures around 0230 GMT –

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: UP 0.2 percent at 20659.12 (break)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng: UP 0.8 percent at 28,400.62

Shanghai – composite: Closed for a public holiday

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 112.63 from 112.84 yen at 2100 GMT

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1768 from $1.1749

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.3260 from $1.3240

Oil – West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 36 cents at $50.06 per barrel

Oil – Brent North Sea: DOWN 33 cents at $55.67 per barrel

New York – DOW: UP 0.4 percent at 22,641,67 (close)

London – FTSE 100: UP 0.4 percent at 7,468.11 (close)