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Fed speculation overshadows Asian markets, dollar rallies

[HONG KONG] Most Asian markets fell again Wednesday on increasing expectations the US Federal Reserve will hike interest rates in the summer, although Japan's Nikkei edged up as the dollar strengthened against the yen.

The likelihood of a Fed hike coupled with the European Central Bank's new bond-buying stimulus programme and fears over Greece also sent the dollar up to 12-year highs against the euro and towards parity.

Tokyo rose 0.50 per cent by the break and Shanghai, which has been hit by a string of recent poor China data, added 0.11 per cent.

But Hong Kong lost 0.38 per cent, Sydney fell 0.48 per cent and Seoul lost 0.70 per cent, while Singapore was down 0.47 per cent.

Wall Street provided another negative lead as investors bet on a Fed rate rise sooner rather than later, with some predicting a move in June after Friday's data showing a surge in US jobs creation in February.

The Dow tumbled 1.85 per cent, the S&P 500 fell 1.70 per cent and the Nasdaq lost 1.67 per cent.

The jobs report ramped up dollar buying, which had already been strong owing to a string of upbeat indicators in recent weeks as well as monetary easing in the eurozone and Japan.

In early Japanese trade Wednesday the greenback was at 121.30 yen early Wednesday, compared with 121.07 yen late Tuesday in New York, where at one point it broke above 122.00 yen, a level not seen since late 2007.

Adding to yen weakness is continuously poor data out of Japan, which has heaped pressure on the country's central bank to further easing monetary policy.

The greenback also surged against the euro after the ECB kicked off its own bond-buying scheme, known as quantitative easing (QE), in a drive to fight off deflation. Worries about Greece's tense talks due Wednesday over its bailout provisions is also sapping the euro.

The euro bought US$1.0711 compared with US$1.0698 in US trade, where it fell through US$1.07 for the first time in 12 years. The single currency was also at 129.68 yen against 129.53 yen.

"This is not a time to stick your neck out and get too aggressive," Ted Weisberg, president of Seaport Securities Corp in New York, told Bloomberg TV.

"You have the strong dollar and the very real threat of the Fed raising interest rates sooner, rather than later." On oil markets, prices rebounded Wednesday following steep losses in the previous session caused by the surging dollar.

US benchmark West Texas Intermediate climbed 61 cents to US$48.90 while Brent rose 51 cents to US$56.90.

Gold fetched US$1,164.45 against US$1,162.02 late Tuesday.

AFP