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Asia shares take a breather, dollar sold anew

Reuters     January 24, 2018

Asian share markets took a time out on Wednesday as investors were left breathless at the breakneck pace of recent gains, while a fresh burst of speculative selling took the U.S. dollar to three-year lows.

Most Asian stock indices are up anywhere from 5 to 10 percent since the start of the year with many at all-time highs.

"These markets are absolutely flying and have had seemingly one-way moves since late December," noted Chris Weston, chief market strategist at broker IG.

"There has clearly been a wall of capital hitting these markets, as is the case with many Asian currencies," he added. "One simply can't rule out further upside here, even if there are growing risks of buyers' fatigue kicking in."

Early Wednesday, MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan eased 0.2 percent, having jumped 1.2 percent on Tuesday to an all-time peak.

Japan's Nikkei edged down 0.6 percent as the yen strengthened, though that was from a 26-year top.

Figures out of Japan showed exports growing for a 13th straight month, led by record demand from China and Asia as a whole, while manufacturing activity expanded at the fastest pace in almost four years.

Investors seemed to have largely shaken off worries about a trade war, sparked when US President Donald Trump's slapped steep import tariffs on washing machines and solar panels in a move condemned by China and South Korea.

Korea's main index was flat, while China's blue-chip CSI300 index  dipped 0.3 percent. The latter is still up more than 8 percent on the year so far and near its highest since mid-2015.

On Wall Street, a 10 percent surge in Netflix (NFLX.O) led gains across the tech sector as it became just the latest to top forecasts. So far, 82 percent of reporting companies having beaten estimates.

The Nasdaq .IXIC ended Tuesday with gains of 0.71 percent and the S&P 500 0.22 percent, while the Dow edged down a tiny 0.01 percent.

EUROPE ON A ROLL

In currency markets, the dollar remained under fire as investors wagered the Federal Reserve would be far from the only central bank to tighten this year as growth spread more widely.

The sea change has been greatest in Europe where a survey of consumers overnight showed confidence jumped to a 17-year high in January.

"Both investors and consumers in Europe have started 2018 in a cheery mood, as the rotation away from the U.S. as the epicentre of global growth continues," said ANZ analyst Richard Yetsenga in a note to clients.

The upbeat data only reinforced speculation the European Central Bank might take a step toward an eventual tightening at its policy meeting on Thursday.

That helped lift to euro to $1.2315 EUR= and back toward the three-year top of $1.2322 touched last week. The dollar was already at a fresh three-year trough against a basket of major currencies at 90.003.

It also ran into selling against the yen even though the Bank of Japan tried hard on Tuesday to quash talk it might curb its massive asset buying campaign anytime soon.

The dollar was last down 0.35 percent at 109.90 JPY=, having breached support at 110.00 for the first time since September.

The British pound GBP= also powered to $1.4040, its highest since the vote to leave the European Union in June 2016, aided by optimism around Britain's chances of securing a favourable Brexit deal.

The dollar's decline has been a boon to commodities priced in the currency, with gold edging up to $1,341.26 an ounce.

Oil prices were consolidating after jumping more than 1 percent on Tuesday, with benchmark Brent crude hitting $70 a barrel for the first time in a week.

Brent futures LCOc1 were off 19 cents at $69.77, still not far off the three-year high of $70.37 reached on Jan. 15, while U.S. crude CLc1 eased 6 cents to $64.41 a barrel.


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