By Nichola Saminather
SINGAPORE Asian stocks pulled back from a 19-month high on Thursday, while the dollar tried to steady from losses suffered in the wake of the U.S. Federal Reserve minutes indicating a cautious approach to more interest rate increases.MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was fractionally lower. Japan's Nikkei slid 0.1 percent, while Australian shares retreated 0.3 percent. Overnight on Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average ended up almost 0.2 percent, its ninth straight record-close. That optimism however, didn't flow through to other indexes, with the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq both closing about 0.1 percent lower. The dollar advanced in early trade as investors parsed the Fed's January meeting minutes, which said that it may be appropriate to raise rates again "fairly soon" should jobs and inflation data be in line with expectations. [nL1N1G71HL]
Nonetheless, markets focused on policymakers' uncertainty due to a lack of clarity on President Donald Trump's economic program, and voting members generally saw only a "modest risk" of inflation increasing significantly and believed the Fed would have "ample time" to respond if it did. "These minutes reflect this mindset of a moderate path. They don’t see a smoking gun for them to speed up. There’s way too much uncertainty about the content and timing on fiscal stimulus and their impact," said Robert Tipp, chief investment strategist at PGIM Fixed Income in Newark, New Jersey.The dollar edged up slightly to 113.32 yen, after tumbling as much as 0.7 percent on Thursday.
The dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of trade-weighted peers, added almost 0.2 percent to 101.39. The euro eased 0.1 percent to $1.05495. On Wednesday, it fell below $1.05 for the first time in six weeks on concern anti European Union candidate Marine Le Pen could win France's presidential election in May. The common currency closed up 0.2 percent as the threat f higher U.S. rates eased following the Fed minutes, and on news of the offer of an alliance from veteran centrist Francois Bayrou to independent candidate Emmanuel Macron that could give the latter a boost in the election. [nL8N1G760G]
In commodities, oil prices gained in early Asian trade after data from the American Petroleum Institute showed a surprise drop in U.S. crude stocks last week. Official data from the U.S. Department of Energy's Energy Information Administration is expected on Thursday. U.S. crude added 0.8 percent to $54.02. The stronger dollar dragged gold lower, with the precious metal slipping 0.1 percent to $1,236.90 an ounce. (Reporting by Nichola Saminather; Additional reporting by Richard Leong; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)
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Updated Date: Feb 23, 2017 06:45 AM