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US-China tensions boost dollar after weekly loss


THE US dollar climbed on Monday after posting a rare weekly loss as investors flocked to the shelter of perceived safe-haven currencies on concerns about a growing standoff between the United States and China over civil liberties in Hong Kong.

The greenback, which tends to behave like a safe-haven asset at times of market turmoil and political uncertainty, rose a fifth of a per cent to 99.98 against its rivals, a one-week high.

The Australian dollar, by dint of its strong trade connections with China and the offshore yuan, led losers against the US dollar.

The Australian dollar gave up early gains to trade 0.15 per cent lower at US$0.6528 as risk aversion offset optimism about the country's emergence from coronavirus lockdowns.

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More turbulence for US-China relations is prompting some investors such as UBS Wealth Management to hold a "defensive" position in Hong Kong.

"(The) larger risk for global investors is what happens if it becomes further enmeshed in broader relations," said Mark Haefele, its chief investment officer.

China's proposed national security legislation for Hong Kong could lead to US sanctions and threaten the city's status as a financial hub, White House National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien said on Sunday.

Hong Kong police fired tear gas and water cannons to disperse thousands of people who rallied on Sunday to protest Beijing's national security law.

Takuya Kanda, general manager of research at Research Institute in Tokyo, said: "Things were already bad, and it is likely to get worse because of the Hong Kong security law. This supports risk-off trades, which is positive for the dollar and the yen."

With financial markets in Singapore, Britain and the United States closed for public holidays on Monday, the weekend developments hit risk aversion in broader markets in early trade.

The euro fell to a one-week low versus the dollar at US$1.0879, down 0.2 per cent on the day.

Sterling was also on the back foot against both the dollar and the euro as political pressure grew on British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to fire senior adviser Dominic Cummings.

Mr Cummings, the architect of the 2016 campaign to leave the EU and widely considered to be Mr Johnson's most influential strategist, came under pressure after reports he travelled to northern England from London during a nationwide lockdown in March when his wife was ill with Covid-19 symptoms. REUTERS

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