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Asia: Markets mostly up but caution reigns, US dollar struggles

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[HONG KONG] Investors in most Asian markets built on the previous day's advance on Tuesday but with caution hanging in the air the gains were limited by concerns over Donald Trump's lack of detail on economic policy as well as geopolitical risks.

Analysts said Mr Trump's weekend Twitter outburst accusing his predecessor Barack Obama of tapping his phones during the election campaign had also spooked investors, while the dollar was unable to break past 114 yen despite a US interest rate hike all but certain.

While Mr Trump's speech to Congress last week fired optimism that he would press on with a big-spending, tax-cutting programme, he has provided nothing in the way of colour since.

Adding to the sense of trepidation were Mr Trump's claims about Mr Obama and his call for Congress to investigate the unsubstantiated allegations, as well as the leaking of classified information linked to the tycoon's ties with Russia.

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"After a spectacular performance addressing the joint sitting of Congress put the Trump presidency back on track, the weekend tweets reminded everyone that this Russian question needs to be addressed and answered," Greg McKenna, chief market strategist at CFD and FX provider AxiTrader, said in a note.

"It also reminded investors that there are distractions which could slow down the execution and implementation of the tax and infrastructure spending plans they have put so much faith in recently," Mr McKenna said.

US shares, which last week touched record highs, started this week in the red, with all three main indexes down, while European markets also retreated on profit-taking and concerns about financial giant Deutsche Bank.

Asian markets were mostly higher in early exchanges, with Hong Kong adding 0.2 per cent, Shanghai flat and Sydney was 0.2 per cent higher while Seoul put on 0.5 per cent.

However Tokyo shed 0.2 per cent, extending Monday's losses that came after North Korea's quadruple missile launch, three of which landed in Japanese-controlled waters, stoking regional security fears.

Wellington and Jakarta were also down.

Exporters on the Nikkei were also struggling as the dollar remained wedged around 114 yen, with Federal Reserve boss Janet Yellen's near confirmation of a March rate hike failing to fan fresh gains.

Analysts said the rise had been cooked into prices already and there was unlikely to be any near-term driver to push the greenback to 115 yen.

AFP

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