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article imageAsian markets boosted by Fed but dollar sinks

By Danny McCord (AFP)     Mar 16, 2017 in Business

Asian markets rallied and the dollar sank Thursday after the Federal Reserve lifted US interest rates but gave a more dovish outlook for future hikes, while the euro was also boosted by the expected victory of the incumbent party in Dutch elections.

After a much-anticipated meeting the US central bank lifted borrowing costs by a quarter of a point but suggested only another two rises this year, confounding talk of a possible three or four.

Fed boss Janet Yellen also said that while President Donald Trump's planned big-spending, tax-cutting plans could fuel growth and inflation, she would keep a wait-and-see attitude before making any decisions on how to shape monetary policy.

The news, which came with an upbeat assessment of the world's top economy, fired US stocks and sent the greenback tumbling in US trade.

And that continued into Asian business, with Hong Kong up 2.1 percent and Shanghai adding 0.8 percent.

The Fed move led Hong Kong's de facto central bank to lift its own borrowing costs owing to a monetary policy link, and the Chinese central bank to lift short-term rates it charges banks to borrow cash in a bid to prevent a flood of cash out of the country and support the yuan.

The People's Bank of China has struggled in recent months to staunch capital flight caused by investors looking for better returns in the US, pushing the yuan to around eight-year lows against the dollar.

Andrew Polk, Beijing-based head of China research at Medley Global Advisors, said: "Moving in line with the Fed also shows that China is still essentially importing US monetary policy, despite increased capital controls over the past several months."

Seoul advanced 0.8 percent, Sydney ticked up 0.2 percent and Singapore was 0.8 percent higher, while there were also big gains in Wellington, Taipei, Jakarta and Manila.

- Euro surges -

"Whether folks agree or disagree with the need to hike, the key here is that the Fed has signalled to markets, and importantly US and global businesses, that it is in control and the economy is moving as expected," said Greg McKenna, chief market strategist at AxiTrader, in a note.

"Janet Yellen stressed in her press conference that the Fed's decision today was a reflection of where the economy is now with reference to the Fed's mandate. She highlighted that the (policy board) was not making a judgement on what impact the Trumponomics stimulus might have on the economy."

Tokyo ended 0.1 percent higher, recovering from early losses as a pick-up in the yen was offset by the Bank of Japan's upbeat assessment of the nation's economy.

US Federal Reserve
US Federal Reserve
Gal ROMA, AFP

The US unit bought 113.23 yen Thursday, down from Wednesday in New York and well off the levels above 115 yen touched earlier this week.

The greenback was also sharply down elsewhere, with the Australian dollar surging 1.5 percent, South Korea's won one percent higher and the Mexican peso soaring 2.2 percent. The New Zealand, Canadian and Taiwanese dollars also posted strong gains of around one percent.

Stephen Innes, senior trader at OANDA, said: "The absence of any observable hawkish guidance from the Fed will leave the greenback under pressure near term."

The euro sat comfortably above $1.07, more than one cent up from earlier Wednesday, as exit polls showed Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte easily defeating far-right, anti-EU rival Geert Wilders in a vote considered a bellwether of populist support in Europe.

The victory raised hopes extremist parties in France and Germany will also be held off in elections later this year.

"Following the Dutch election result, it’s unlikely to see concerns heighten over the French election," Shinichiro Kadota, a senior foreign-exchange strategist at Barclays Securities Japan in Tokyo, told Bloomberg News.

In early European trade London climbed 0.7 percent, Paris added 0.8 percent and Frankfurt soared 1.2 percent.

- Key figures around 0800 GMT -

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: UP 0.1 percent at 19,590.14 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng: UP 2.1 percent at 24,288.28 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: UP 0.8 percent at 3,268.94 (close)

London - FTSE 100: UP 0.7 percent at 7,420.70

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.0730 from $1.0725

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.2280 from $1.2292

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 113.23 yen from 113.42 yen

Oil - West Texas Intermediate: UP 27 cents at $49.13

Oil - Brent North Sea: UP 33 cents at $52.14 per barrel

New York - Dow: UP 0.5 percent at 20,950.10 (close)

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