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Asia: Shares slip, dollar stands tall on Fed hike bets

[TOKYO] Asian shares slipped on Monday and the dollar pulled away from last week's lows on expectations that a signal might emerge from a Federal Reserve gathering this week in Jackson Hole, Wyoming that the US central bank is gearing up to hike interest rates.

Global central bankers will join the annual mountain retreat that opens on Thursday, with Fed Chair Janet Yellen due to speak the following day.

The Jackson Hole meeting "looks set to dominate trade this week," wrote Angus Nicholson, market analyst at IG in Melbourne.

"The DXY US dollar index already seemed to be looking ahead for some slightly more upbeat language on the US economy coming out this week as it rallied 0.4 per cent on Friday," he said.

The dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of six major rivals, was up 0.2 per cent in early trade at 94.722, pulling away from last week's low of 94.077, which was its lowest since June 24.

Early on Monday, the dollar was up 0.4 per cent against its Japanese counterpart at 100.59 yen, while the euro was down 0.2 per cent at US$1.1299, pulling away from last week's eight-week high of US$1.1366.

Fed Vice Chairman Stanley Fischer gave a generally upbeat assessment of the US economy's current strength in prepared remarks on Sunday, saying the job market was close to full strength and still improving.

"We are close to our targets," Mr Fischer said, but did not directly address when the US central bank should next raise interest rates.

New York Fed President William Dudley said last week a rate hike would be possible at the Fed's next policy meeting in September, though interest rate futures contracts indicate that market is pricing in about 50/50 odds of an increase in December.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was down 0.2 per cent, after losing 0.3 per cent last week. Wall Street logged modest losses on Friday, ending nearly flat for the week.

Japan's Nikkei rose 0.3 per cent in early trade, taking solace from a weaker currency, but then shed the gains. It had skidded 2.2 per cent last week, as the dollar dipped below 100 yen.

Crude oil futures dropped, giving back some of their recent gains that propelled oil into bull market territory, after technicals had it in a bear market early this month.

Crude futures have risen almost US$10 a barrel since early August on speculation that Saudi Arabia and other members of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries will agree next month to a production freeze deal with non-Opec producers led by Russia.

US crude fell 0.6 per cent to US$48.25 after gaining 9 per cent last week, rising for a second straight week.

Brent crude was 0.9 per cent lower at US$50.43 a barrel, after gaining 8 per cent last week, rising for a third week in a row.