HONG KONG: Most Asian markets fell Monday (Aug 22) but the dollar rose on bets on a US interest rate hike this year after the Federal Reserve's vice chairman said the country's economy was picking up.
Stanley Fischer said Sunday the world's top economy was meeting all the Fed's targets and that growth would improve, hinting that borrowing costs could rise this year.
Fischer was speaking as his boss, Janet Yellen, prepares to give a closely watched speech at the Jackson Hole gathering of global central bankers Friday.
His comments provided some much-needed support to the dollar following the release last week of minutes showing Fed policymakers wanted to keep their "options open" for monetary policy as they assess the global outlook.
The board was divided on the near-term danger of inflation, with some seeing little threat but others worried that there could be a sudden upward push on prices as the jobs market tightens.
However, the latest comments raised the possibility that the bank could lift rates at its next policy meeting next month.
In afternoon trade the dollar bought 100.78 yen, up from 100.20 yen in New York Friday and much better than the levels below 100 yen touched in the middle of last week following disappointing economic data.
The euro eased to US$1.1281 from US$1.1324.
"Janet Yellen's speech on Friday will have the biggest impact on short-term market moves, especially if she follows in Stanley Fischer's relatively hawkish tone," Angus Nicholson, a market analyst at IG Ltd, told Bloomberg News.
The weaker yen helped Japan's Nikkei stock index to end 0.3 per cent higher, while Hong Kong added 0.3 per cent although other markets struggled. Sydney fell 0.2 per cent and Shanghai closed 0.8 per cent lower, while there were also steep losses in Seoul, Singapore and Taipei.
In early European trade London, Paris and Frankfurt each fell 0.3 per cent.
Oil prices sank more than 1 per cent after last week's rally after Iraq said at the weekend that it intends to increase shipments, according to Bloomberg News, while US firms again increased their rig count. The stronger dollar also hit demand as it makes crude more expensive for anyone holding other currencies.
West Texas Intermediate slipped 1.7 per cent to US$47.71 and Brent fell 1.7 per cent to US$50.01.
The losses come after a seven-day rally that saw the commodity enter a bull market - a 20 per cent rise from recent lows - as it emerged that the OPEC producers club and its rivals will meet next month, with speculation they could discuss ways to tackle an oversupplied market.
However, there remain doubts about whether a deal to address output would be reached.
"The stars remain misaligned for an OPEC/non-OPEC freeze agreement, but it is beneficial for producers to talk," British bank Barclays said in a market analysis.
KEY FIGURES AT 0800 GMT
Tokyo - Nikkei 225: UP 0.3 per cent at 16,598.19 (close)
Shanghai - Composite: DOWN 0.8 per cent at 3,084.81 (close)
Hong Kong - Hang Seng: UP 0.3 per cent at 22,997.91 (close)
London - FTSE 100: DOWN 0.3 per cent to 6,837.48
Dollar/yen: UP at 100.78 from 100.20 yen
Euro/dollar: DOWN at US$1.1281 from US$1.1324 Friday
Pound/dollar: DOWN at US$1.3047 from US$1.3080
New York - DOW: DOWN 0.2 per cent at 18,552.57 (close)