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US dollar pushes higher after Yellen, Asia traders wary

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The US dollar rallied against high-yielding currencies and cemented gains versus its major peers as dealers took a speech by Federal Reserve boss Janet Yellen as a hint that US interest rates will rise further this year.

[HONG KONG] The US dollar rallied against high-yielding currencies and cemented gains versus its major peers as dealers took a speech by Federal Reserve boss Janet Yellen as a hint that US interest rates will rise further this year.

However, while forex traders are bullish on the greenback, pushing Japanese stocks higher, most Asian traders are moving cautiously ahead of Donald Trump's inauguration on Friday.

In the two months after Mr Trump's November election win the dollar soared against all other currencies on expectations his big-spending, tax-cutting plans will fan growth, ramp up inflation and force the Fed to lift borrowing costs.

But a growing uncertainty in the past two weeks, made worse by a lack of policy detail from the president-elect, have sent investors scurrying back out of the US unit until they see signs of firm plans.

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However, Ms Yellen breathed life back into the greenback on Wednesday with a speech in which she said the US economy was meeting the central bank's inflation and employment goals, and was confident it would push on.

"Yellen's comments reinforced the message that we have been getting from other Fed speakers that the economy is already strong even before the addition of any stimulus from Trumponomics," said Greg McKenna, chief market strategist at FX and CFD provider AxiTrader.

The dollar was virtually flat against the yen, euro and pound a day after surging around one per cent against each.

However, it jumped almost one per cent against the South Korean won, 0.6 per cent against the Australian dollar and 1.4 per cent on Canada's dollar. The Malaysian ringgit was down 0.2 per cent, as was Indonesia's rupiah.

On equity markets Tokyo's Nikkei finished the morning 0.9 per cent higher as exporters were lifted by the weakening yen. Sydney edged up 0.2 per cent while Seoul shed 0.2 per cent.

Hong Kong lost 0.3 per cent and Shanghai was flat.

Investors are waiting for Mr Trump's post-inauguration speech hoping he will provide some colour to his campaign promises although there are concerns among many Asian markets about his protectionist rhetoric.

"While the inauguration is dominating headlines, simmering on the back burner is the overriding theme of US protectionism, expressly directed at China," Stephen Innes, senior trader at Oanda, said in a note.

"With so many prominent trade hawks joining the Trump administration, it all points to a massive shift in US trade policy. That does not paint a rosy picture for regional ... exporters, nor countries like Australia, which play such a vital role in the global supply chain."

AFP

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