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US dollar on back foot, slips from rate rise-inspired peak

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The US dollar dipped in Asian trading on Monday, as investors locked in gains after the greenback's rise last week on growing expectations of a US interest rate hike this month.

[TOKYO] The US dollar dipped in Asian trading on Monday, as investors locked in gains after the greenback's rise last week on growing expectations of a US interest rate hike this month.

Market participants also kept an eye on developments in North Korea, which fired four ballistic missiles early on Monday, three of which landed in Japan's exclusive economic zone, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said.

The news bolstered the perceived safe-haven yen, and also weighed on US Treasury yields, decreasing the dollar's appeal.

"North Korea is unpredictable, but it fairly frequently conducts missile tests," said Kaneo Ogino, director at foreign exchange research firm Global-info Co in Tokyo.

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"One difference now is that it is also hard to predict how President Trump will respond to such tests," he said.

The US dollar slipped 0.2 per cent to 113.83 yen, down from Friday's high of 114.75.

The yield on benchmark 10-year US Treasury notes slipped to 2.474 per cent in Asian trading, from Friday's US close of 2.492 per cent.

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said on Friday that the central bank is set to raise its benchmark interest rate later this month as long as economic data on jobs and inflation holds up, in comments that likely cement a rate hike at the Fed's next meeting on March 14-15.

In addition to Ms Yellen, four other top US central bank officials spoke at various times during the day.

Fed funds futures prices show traders see more than an 85 per cent chance of a rate increase this month, up from just a one in three chance early last week, according to CME Group's Fed Watch tool.

Still, speculators reduced bullish bets on the US dollar in the week ended Feb 28, pushing net longs to their lowest since early October, according to Commodity Futures Trading Commission data released on Friday and calculations by Reuters.

US political developments also weighed on the US dollar. Mr Trump on Saturday accused his predecessor Barack Obama of wiretapping him during the 2016 election campaign, an accusation rejected by Mr Obama and a top former intelligence official.

The controversy distracts from policy issues on which investors are still waiting for details, said Masashi Murata, senior currency strategist at Brown Brothers Harriman.

"We need to take time until we can get more details about fiscal stimulus under Trump," since the US economy is unlikely to continue its pace of growth without stimulus, he said.

The euro slipped 0.2 per cent to US$1.0609, as investors monitored developments in France's election campaign.

Scandal-hit French presidential candidate Francois Fillon said on Sunday he was staying in the race but left the door open to talks with senior members of his party who are increasingly anxious about his candidacy.

Mr Fillon's fellow conservative Alain Juppe would reach the second round should he replace him, an opinion poll said on Sunday.

REUTERS

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