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Asian stocks steady on robust United States data, dollar holds gains

Wednesday, 20 August 2014 - 9:53am IST | Place: TOKYO | Agency: Reuters

Asian stocks were steady on Wednesday after strong U.S. housing data lifted Wall Street shares, helping nudge Treasury yields higher and keeping the dollar well bid against the euro and yen.

Global equities have attracted funds in recent sessions on expectations major central banks, including the U.S. Federal Reserve, will continue to retain their easy money policies for a while.

Tokyo's Nikkei gained 0.1 percent.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was flat.

Wall Street drew support from robust housing data on Tuesday, which pushed up Treasury yields and drove the dollar to a nine-month high against the euro.

Riskier assets were also underpinned by receding geopolitical tensions stemming from the Ukraine conflict.

"Risk-on moves continue to take place. Last week it was mostly led by equities, but now it is more widespread, resulting in safe-havens like Treasuries being sold," said Junichi Ishikawa, market strategist at IG Securities in Tokyo.

"The resulting rise in Treasury yields has boosted the dollar, and we are seeing a more comprehensive risk off trend," he said.

The euro was little changed at $1.3315, within reach of a nine-month low of $1.3313 hit overnight.

The dollar traded near a two-week high of 103.005 yen.

Strategists at Brown Brothers Harriman said the situation appeared to be developing into two tiers of risk, a lower one focused on ground conflict and a higher one centred on the international diplomatic arena.

"It seems as if markets are now entirely focused on the upper tier of risk, and have come to accept an escalation of the proxy military conflict on the ground between the two countries (Ukraine and Russia)," they wrote in a note to clients.

Later in the day investors will be looking to the Federal Reserve's minutes from the July 29-30 policy meeting, as well as Fed Chair Janet Yellen's speech on Friday at a gathering of central bankers in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

The Fed minutes will again be scanned for any clues on when policymakers plan to raise U.S. interest rates, with a set of mixed data in recent months keeping traders guessing about the timing of the tightening cycle.

In commodities, gold was stuck firmly below $1,300 an ounce and looked likely to extend losses as the strong U.S. data bolstered stock markets, dimming bullion's appeal as a safe haven.

Spot gold was little changed at $1,295.95 an ounce after shedding 0.15 percent the previous day.




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