Asian shares wary before Obama speech, dollar soars vs yen

(AT Express) – Asian shares edged down on Thursday as investors were wary of the geopolitical implications of a planned speech by U.S. President Barack Obama, while the dollar held close to fresh six-year highs against the yen.


Obama will deliver a speech late on Wednesday (9 p.m. ET Thursday) in which he will vow to attack Islamic State militants “wherever they exist,” lay out a strategy for expanding U.S. air strikes in Iraq and, for the first time, strike targets in Syria.


While overnight gains on Wall Street underpinned shares, the risk-averse mood helped push MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan down about 0.1 percent in early trade.


Japan’s Nikkei stock average (.N225) added 0.6 percent, taking solace from the weaker yen and upbeat data released before the market opened.


Confidence at big Japanese manufacturers turned positive in July-September and business conditions are expected to improve further in the following quarter, a government survey showed on Thursday.


Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda will hold a meeting on Thursday to exchange views on the state of the economy, their first in about five months, according to a local media report.


The greenback rose to a six-year high of 106.89 yen on Wednesday and was last steady on the day at 106.83 yen.


The euro was also steady at $1.2919, remaining well above its 14-month low of $1.2859 hit on Tuesday.


Rising U.S. yields gave the dollar a lift. The yield on the benchmark U.S. 10-year note stood at 2.534 percent, near its U.S. close of 2.536 percent on Wednesday, when it rose to its highest in more than a month.


Traders sold Treasuries to prepare for a more hawkish stance on monetary policy from the U.S. Federal Reserve at its next policy meeting on Sept. 16-17.


Analysts said the Fed could hint at an earlier-than-expected interest rate hike on steady U.S. jobs growth. A study from the San Francisco Fed released Monday suggested that investors underestimated the speed at which the Fed might raise rates.


But the Federal Open Market Committee could also trigger a dollar correction, some strategists said.


“If Fed Chair Janet Yellen continues to downplay the improvements in the U.S. economy and fails to provide sufficient guidance on what happens after quantitative easing ends, the disappointment could lead to a wave of profit taking in USD/JPY,” Kathy Lien, managing director at New York’s BK Asset Management, wrote in a note to clients.


Spot gold prices were flat on the day at $1,248.71 an ounce, pressured by expectations of higher rates from the Fed.


U.S. crude (CLc1) steadied at $91.72 per barrel, after dropping to a 16-month low on Wednesday on rising supply, as OPEC lowered projected demand for its crude and data showed a jump in U.S. refined product stocks.



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