Asia fails to build on Wall Street lead as dollar languishes

Hong Kong (AFP) –


The dollar slumped Thursday in the wake of dovish Federal Reserve minutes highlighting concern over inflation and crumbling corporate support for US President Donald Trump.

The greenback was back below 110 yen as safe haven assets were reinvigorated, with Asian equities treading water to broadly hold gains from a rally earlier in the week on easing tensions over North Korea.

New York stocks finished higher despite developments in Washington, with the Dow rising above 22,000 even as Trump disbanded a pair of business advisory boards after several chief executives resigned over his widely criticised response to a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville.

Tokyo stocks slipped by the break on Thursday with banks in retreat after Fed policymakers hinted at a slower pace of interest rate hikes at their July meeting, with shares also dragged lower by the stronger yen.

Some members of the central bank argued it could afford to "be patient" before raising rates again, according to minutes that also showed policymakers focused on weak inflation that has persisted despite historically low unemployment.

Hong Kong drifted lower but market heavyweight Tencent was up more than three percent in morning trade.

The tech giant, which owns hugely popular social media platform WeChat, beat expectations to report surging quarterly net profit to enjoy its fastest revenue growth in seven years.

Stocks in Shanghai were higher in morning trade, ahead of results from Chinese e-commerce leviathan Alibaba.

- 'Crumbling business support' -

"US investors shrugged off Fed fretting over low inflation, weaker than forecast housing data and crumbling business support for the White House to maintain stock market levels within one percent of all-time highs," said Michael McCarthy, chief market strategist at CMC Markets.

"USD weakness followed the release of (Fed) minutes that indicated 'many' members feared inflation will stay lower for longer."

The dollar was also put under pressure by the fresh turbulence in Washington.

"If you thought the president lacked the necessary key back room operators to implement the White House economic agenda, well things just got worse," said Oanda's Stephen Innes.

"Predictably the dollar sagged, and safe havens were back in vogue."

On commodities markets, crude prices bounced back following a sharp decline overnight even though inventory data from the Energy Information Administration showed another massive drawdown last week.

Traders instead focused on EIA data showing US production climbed by 79,000 barrels per day to the highest level in more than two years, heightening concerns about a supply glut.

"Market participants have been concerned that rising production in North America will continue to counterbalance OPEC and Russia's efforts to freeze output to support oil prices," said Margaret Yang Yan, an analyst at CMC Markets Singapore.

On forex markets, sterling was up against the dollar after rebounding on Wednesday on UK labour market data showing unemployment fell to 4.4 percent while average earnings rose by 2.1 percent, beating market expectations.

-- Bloomberg News contributed to this report --

- Key figures around 0230 GMT -

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: DOWN less than 0.1 percent at 19,713.62 (break)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng: DOWN 0.2 percent at 27,367.73

Shanghai - Composite: UP 0.1 percent at 3,260.48

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1782 from $1.1766

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.2903 from $1.2891

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 109.81 yen from 110.19 yen

Oil - West Texas Intermediate: UP 11 cents at $46.89 per barrel

Oil - Brent North Sea: UP 19 cents at $50.46

New York - Dow: UP 0.1 percent at 22,024.87 (close)

London - FTSE 100: UP 0.7 percent at 7,433.03 points (close)