Asian shares steady after Fed optimism

Asian shares steady after Fed optimism

Tokyo: The dollar rose and hit a three-month high against the euro on Thursday and Asian shares were broadly steady after the Federal Reserve voiced some optimism about a stabilising economy.

The Fed on Wednesday left the benchmark interest rate near zero as expected and reaffirmed the rate will be low for some time. It also reminded markets that it will let most of its special liquidity expire by early next year.

The dollar rose broadly on year-end position unwinding, adding to its gains for the month. Gains in the currency have been helped by data showing slowing US job losses and improving consumer confidence.

The Fed’s statement, which highlighted improvement in housing and noted last month’s decline in the unemployment rate, did little to alter the dollar firmness of recent weeks.

“They are just coming out and saying things are looking a bit better. There is nothing in there that really challenges a slightly more upbeat view of the US economy," said Adrian Foster, Rabobank’s head of financial markets research Asia-Pacific in Hong Kong.

The euro hit a three-month low against the dollar of $1.4450 on trading platform EBS, with its losses exacerbated by stop-loss selling.

The dollar advanced broadly, hitting a 2-month high of 77.265 against a basket of currencies and also rallying to a 2-month peak against the Swiss franc.

Asian shares were steady, with the MSCI’s index of Asian stock markets outside Japan only slightly lower at 403.83, not far from a roughly 15-month peak of 416.89 struck in mid-November.

Japan’s Nikkei share average hit a seven-week high as exporters such as TDK advanced as the dollar clawed higher against the yen and inched further away from a 14-year trough hit in late November.

“We are beginning to see a positive scenario for Japan. The outlook for the U.S. economy appears to be improving and that’s good news for the export industry. The dollar’s strength will also help halt the yen’s advance," said Kenichi Hirano, operating officer at Tachibana Securities.

In other stock markets, Taiwan shares gained half a percent, while South Korean shares dipped half a percent with losses by banks including KB Financial Group weighing.

Oil rose for a third session above $72.74 a barrel after rising 2.8% on Wednesday on data showing that crude stocks in the United States fell more than expected last week. Gold was little changed near $1,138 per ounce.