US dollar gains on US tax cut progress; Asian shares listless

The US dollar bounced to a two-week top on Dec 4, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

SYDNEY (REUTERS) - The US dollar bounced to a two-week top on Monday (Dec 4) and S&P futures rallied as traders marked the passage of a Senate tax bill over the weekend, a move that raises the risk of more aggressive rate hikes in the world's largest economy.

Asian shares were less euphoric, with MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan hovering near a one-month trough on fears US policy tightening could suck liquidity from emerging markets and derail global growth. Traders will be focusing their attentions on a meeting scheduled for British Prime Minister Theresa May and EU President Jean-Claude Juncker to work on a Brexit deal.

The euro slipped 0.1 per cent, while the British pound was steady amid media reports that a deal was near on the terms of the Brexit divorce.

The US Senate approved a tax overhaul on Saturday, moving Republicans and President Donald Trump a big step closer to their goal of slashing taxes for businesses and the rich.

The move could further boost corporate profits and lead to a slew of share buy-backs. US stock markets have already rallied for months on hopes that Washington would provide significant tax cuts for corporations.

Indeed, EMini S&P stock futures jumped 0.6 per cent on Monday, though most major Asian markets started the week with a whimper.

China's CSI 300 index and SSE Composite were down 0.2 per cent each, while Australian shares dipped 0.1 percent. Japan's Nikkei eased 0.2 per cent.

"If you do see a US fiscal stimulus in 2018 all its likely to do is accelerate the need for further US policy tightening which indirectly could be negative for emerging markets," said Chris Weston, Melbourne-based chief market strategist at IG.

"If real yields trend higher and the US dollar rises further that would put emerging markets and Asia on the back burner," Weston added.

U.S. Treasury prices fell and yields rose sharply as fiscal policy was set to be eased even while the economy was running at or near full employment.

Yields on two-year notes rose to 1.806 per cent, while those on the 10-year bond climbed to 2.4026 percent.

The greenback jumped 0.7 per cent to as far as 112.98 yen, the highest since Nov 17. It climbed 0.5 per cent last week, a welcome reprieve to bulls after three straight sessions of losses.

The dollar index added 0.2 per cent against major currencies.

Despite broad-based gains in the greenback, the Australian dollar found support around 76 US cents as iron ore futures rallied for a fourth straight day.

Iron ore is Australia's top export earner and higher prices boosts national income and corporate profits.

Bitcoin hovered close to an all-time high of $11,800 set on Sunday after the US derivatives regulator allowed CME Group and CBOE Global Markets to list bitcoin futures.

The cryptocurrency was last trading around US$11,230 on the Luxembourg-based Bitstamp exchange.

In commodity markets, US crude was off 37 cents at US$57.99. Brent blend crude slipped 35 cents to US$63.38, drifting away from a near 2½ year peak of US$64.65 touched last month.

Spot gold was off 0.4 per cent to US$1,275.15 an ounce.

Follow ST on LinkedIn and stay updated on the latest career news, insights and more.