Dollar rises in Asia as commodities, euro drop

November 23, 2015, 10:43am

AP on ANN7, Photo: Getty images

Hong Kong:Growing confidence that the US will raise interest rates next month boosted the dollar in Asia on Monday, weighing on commodities, while the euro hit a seven-month low on speculation of more ECB easing.

US stocks capped their best week this year on Friday as investors digested growing signs the Federal Reserve thinks the world's top economy is strong enough to handle a rate rise next month. The prospect of the first increase for almost a decade boosted the greenback, but dragged down raw materials and energy shares as the stronger dollar made them more expensive for international investors.

Oil prices dipped, with US benchmark WTI trading around $40 a barrel, while nickel plunged and gold declined -- helping push Bloomberg's Commodity Index to a 16-year low. Materials shares were hurt by the slide, with global miner BHP Billiton dropping 2.1 percent in Sydney and Chinese energy giant Sinopec losing almost one percent in Hong Kong.

Overall Asian shares ended mixed, with most bourses rising but Chinese equities closing lower. In Europe, stocks fell in early trade ahead of the release of regional data. The euro, meanwhile, fell after European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi on Friday hinted the lender could unleash further stimulus to boost stubbornly low inflation in the eurozone.

His pledge to "do what we must" to lift prices fuelled expectations the bank could expand its already vast easing scheme next month, dragging the single currency to its lowest point since mid-April. "It's probably reasonable to think we can spend time down below $1.05 now," Ray Attrill, co-head of currency strategy at National Australia Bank, told Bloomberg News.

- Fed, ECB diverge -

Draghi's remarks contrasted sharply with comments from San Francisco Fed president John Williams over the weekend, who said there was a "strong case" for an increase in December. Market expectations were also fuelled by minutes from the Federal Reserve on Wednesday which showed its policymakers are satisfied the US economy is strong enough to withstand a rate hike next month.

Emerging-market currencies fell against the dollar on Monday, with Bloomberg's benchmark gauge of the units heading for its first drop in five days.

"The markets are still quite euphoric on the increased prospects of Fed rate hike in December, which prompted bullish USD positioning," said Bernard Aw, market strategist at IG in Singapore. "With the futures market pricing in a close to 70 percent odds of a December rate action, USD strength is likely to persist."

Sydney shares ended at their highest level in almost a month, buoyed by consumer shares, and Seoul also rose. Chinese shares fell, however, while Tokyo was closed for a public holiday. Hong Kong's benchmark index ended lower, and shares in brokerage Guotai Junan International slumped more than 12 percent after the company said it has been unable to contact its chairman since Wednesday.

Shares in the parent company, Guotai Junan Securities, dropped 2.60 percent to 23.95 yuan in Shanghai. Stocks in Shanghai also fell as investors remained cautious ahead of the end of a freeze on initial public offerings put in place in July, during a stock market rout.

A total of 10 companies will offer stock to investors for subscription next week ahead of planned listings on the Shanghai and Shenzhen exchanges, according to statements on Monday.

Key figures around 0900 GMT Tokyo - Nikkei 225: CLOSED Hong Kong: DOWN 0.39 percent at 22,665.9 (close) Shanghai: DOWN 0.6 percent at 3,610.31 (close) Sydney: UP 0.4 percent at 5,276.4 (close) Euro/dollar: DOWN to $1.0631 from $1.0641 in New York Dollar/yen: UP to 123.12 yen from 122.85 yen New York - Dow: UP 0.51 percent at 17,823.81 (close) New York - S&P 500: UP 0.38 percent at 2,089.17 (close) New York - Nasdaq: UP 0.62 percent at 5,104.92 (close)