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Asia: Markets edge up but traders cautious after Wall St drop

[HONG KONG] Asian investors headed into the weekend cautiously upbeat on Friday after US traders took a breather from their recent run of records while uncertainty about Donald Trump's tax plans are keeping the dollar reined in.

Wall Street's three main indexes stepped back after clocking up a number of all-time highs in recent weeks fuelled by hopes for the earnings season and confidence the US economy is in good shape.

But dealers across Asia built on the previous day's gains, with Tokyo pushing on after hitting a 21-year high earlier in the week - although Shanghai and Hong Kong went into retreat ahead of the release of Chinese trade data.

Japan's Nikkei was up 0.2 per cent by the break, while Sydney climbed 0.2 per cent and Singapore added 0.3 per cent. Seoul and Wellington each added 0.2 per cent, and there were also gains in Manila and Jakarta.

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The dollar was struggling to break out against its major peers as questions swirl over the future of Mr Trump's promised tax plans, with some members of his Republican party said to be concerned about the possible effects on the country's debt mountain.

Last month's release of a proposal outlining massive changes to the tax code boosted the greenback but the unit has pared some of those gains.

DOLLAR EASES

"There appeared to be a significant compromise brewing amongst Republicans (on Thursday) but given the bloated nature of the current tax code, for every compromise tabled there seems to be another band-aid fixed elsewhere," said Stephen Innes, head of Asia-Pacific trading at Oanda.

"Understanding and patience will be the name of the game for this to pass but it would not surprise me if we found ourselves back dead in the water next week." Easing concerns about Spain's Catalan independence crisis provided support to the euro.

And the pound, which has been hurt by uncertainty surrounding Prime Minister Theresa May, was up after a report in a German newspaper saying Britain could get a two-year extension to complete Brexit as officials haggle over terms of the divorce.

Investors will be closely following the release later Friday of US consumer inflation data for September, which will give a clue about the Federal Reserve's plans for hiking interest rates. The reading follows an upbeat reading on producer prices.

With some on the Fed's policy board calling for early rate hikes to avoid sharper increases further down the line, there are other who argue for a wait-and-see approach on inflation, which is leaving markets on tenterhooks.

Traders are also keeping tabs on the race to replace Fed boss Janet Yellen, whose term finishes early next year. Of the two front-runners according to analysts, fiscal dove Jerome Powell is tipped to be ahead, which has weighed on the dollar.

AFP

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