NEW YORK: Asian shares retreated on Wednesday as investors cashed in on a recent rally, while the euro flirted with highs not seen in more than 2-1/2 years on as hopes of a gradual global economic recovery supported demand for riskier currencies.
Australian shares lost 0.79per cent while Japan's Nikkei share average lost 0.03per cent after jumping to a 30-year high on Tuesday.
Hong Kong's Hang Seng index futures were up 0.11per cent, however, while E-Mini futures for the S&P 500 were little changed.
Shares on Wall Street had pulled back from record highs overnight as uncertainty about whether the U.S. Senate would authorize additional stimulus checks gave investors a reason to take profits.
The U.S. Senate's vote on the additional checks appeared to be delayed by early Wednesday morning Asia time, while news that the United States has detected its first-known case of a highly infectious coronavirus variant could give investors more reason to cash in gains.
But in a sign that markets are not avoiding risky assets across the board, the U.S. dollar struggled as investors favoured riskier currencies.
The euro was steady at US$1.2255, after climbing overnight to a high of US$1.2275, a level last seen in April 2018. Traders said the common currency appeared well-supported at US$1.2200 and US$1.2165.
"The start of COVID‑19 immunization campaigns in several countries as well as additional U.S. fiscal support reduce downside risk to the global economy and bode well for general financial market sentiment," analysts at Commonwealth Bank of Australia said in a note.
The Australian dollar was steady at US$0.7609, within sight of a 2-1/2-year high of US$0.7639, while sterling traded sideways at US$1.3500. The Japanese yen was little changed at 103.55, with some traders predicting it will be pinned between the 103.00-104.00 range for now.
Investors are betting that the dollar is entering a downtrend in the foreseeable future as a recovery in the global economy next year leads them to shun so-called "safe-haven" assets such as the greenback.
The U.S. dollar was listless against a basket of major currencies, losing 0.29per cent to stand at 89.982, within spitting distance from a 2-1/2-year low of 89.72.
A sluggish dollar supported gold, with bullion prices steady at US$1,877.11 an ounce.
Oil prices rebounded overnight as investors hoped that an expanded U.S. pandemic aid stimulus would spur fuel demand and stoke economic growth.
U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude futures were up 0.23per cent at US$48.11 a barrel.
Treasuries were little changed after trading sideways overnight in thin trade amid the year-end holidays. U.S. two-year yields were steady at 0.1289per cent and benchmark 10-year yields stood at 0.9347per cent.
(Reporting by Koh Gui Qing; Editing by Sam Holmes)