Dollar struggles in Asia as Hong Kong gains for eighth day

Dollar struggles in Asia as Hong Kong gains for eighth day

Asian markets
People walk past an electronic stock board showing Japan's Nikkei 225 index at a securities firm in Tokyo. (Photo: AP/Eugene Hoshiko)

HONG KONG: The dollar's travails extended into Wednesday (Jul 19) as Donald Trump faces a battle to push through his much-vaunted economic agenda, but Asian equity traders were unfazed and stocks rallied.

After a blistering rally in the months following the tycoon's November election win - fuelled by bets his tax cuts and big spending plans would fan inflation - the greenback has been hobbled by a congressional logjam and a series of crises engulfing the White House.

A crucial blow was struck Monday when it was clear his Republican party would not be able to muster enough senators to pass controversial health care reforms, throwing into doubt his ability to pass big-ticket measures.

With inflation stuck below the Federal Reserve's two per cent target and prospects fading of any economic reforms, traders are questioning whether the Fed will raise interest rates for a third time this year. Just months ago there had been bets on four increases.

"The market has been waiting for the Trump failure cascade to begin and yesterday's health care headlines once again bring into question the administration's ability to enact on their key legislative promises, leaving investors in limbo and the dollar sagging," Stephen Innes, a senior trader at OANDA, said in a commentary.

The greenback was marginally up against its major peers but remained stuck at multi-month lows, with the euro enjoying support from expectations the European Central Bank will soon begin to reduce stimulus.

The bank will hold its next policy meeting Thursday and boss Mario Draghi's statement will be pored over for clues about its timetable as the eurozone economy continues to improve.


Other, higher-yielding, currencies are also faring well with the Australian dollar pushing towards 80 US cents for the first time since early 2015, while the Mexican peso is also at more than one-year highs.

The peso had been hammered to record lows immediately after Trump's election on fears about his threats to tear up trade deals and repatriate thousands of Mexicans.

In share trading Hong Kong climbed 0.6 per cent for an eighth-straight gain - to a fresh two-year high - as mainland traders head south on worries about a government crackdown on risk-taking in financial markets.

"If China's market is under tighter regulation that means there's relatively limited opportunity at least in the near term, so they would prefer to go to another market," said Ben Kwong, executive director at KGI Asia in Hong Kong.

"Even though Hong Kong stocks have gained 21 per cent this year, we're not seeing much correction pressure," he told Bloomberg News.

However, Shanghai jumped 1.4 per cent Wednesday in the latest round of volatile trading in recent weeks as China's leaders try to address a debt crisis in the country. Supporting the gains were hopes for the upcoming corporate earnings season.

On other regional markets Tokyo closed up 0.1 per cent, Sydney rose 0.8 per scent, Singapore put on 0.6 per cent and Wellington was 0.3 per cent higher. Taipei, Manila and Bangkok were also well up.

In early European trade London rose 0.2 per cent while Paris and Frankfurt were each 0.3 per cent higher.

- Key figures around 0720 GMT -

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: UP 0.1 per cent at 20,020.86 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng: UP 0.6 per cent at 26,672.16 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: UP 1.4 per cent at 3,230.98 (close)

London - FTSE 100: UP 0.2 per cent at 7,407.21

Euro/dollar: DOWN at US$1.1530 from US$1.1554 at 2045 GMT

Pound/dollar: DOWN at US$1.3030 from US$1.3042

Dollar/yen: UP at ¥112.05 from ¥112.03

Oil - West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 19 cents at US$46.21 per barrel

Oil - Brent North Sea: DOWN 21 cents at US$48.63

New York - DOW: DOWN 0.3 per cent at 21,574.73 (close)

Source: AFP/ec