Shares Fall, Dollar Wavers On Fed Tapering Uncertainty

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Asian shares sagged and the dollar wobbled on Wednesday as investors pondered mixed signals from U.S. Federal Reserve officials about when the U.S. central bank would start to pare its asset-buying stimulus.

Shares Fall, Dollar Wavers On Fed Tapering Uncertainty

 

* Fed's Lockhart adds to speculation of stimulus reduction at Dec policy meeting

* Investors await Yellen's Senate confirmation hearing for top Fed post

* Dollar edges away from near 2-month high vs. yen

Asian shares sagged and the dollar wobbled on Wednesday as investors pondered mixed signals from U.S. Federal Reserve officials about when the U.S. central bank would start to pare its asset-buying stimulus.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell about 0.7 percent, while Japan's Nikkei stock average slipped 0.6 percent.

Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart told reporters on Tuesday that a reduction of the central bank's quantitative easing program remains a possibility at the Federal Open Market Committee's next policy meeting on Dec. 17-18, although he did say policy should remain very easy.

"There is a danger to the global stock market rally as the December FOMC meeting draws closer," said Andrew Wilkinson, chief economic strategist at Miller Tabak.

"Equity investors must monitor how emerging markets deal with the escalation of taper talk following a healthy October payroll report," he said in a note to clients.

Data on Friday showed an unexpected surge in U.S. jobs growth in October, suggesting the labour market could be strong enough for the Fed to begin to pare its $85 billion-a-month bond-buying programme sooner rather than later.

Investors will also be paying close attention to any comments that Fed Vice Chair Janet Yellen makes at Thursday's Senate confirmation hearing on her nomination to become the first woman to head the world's most powerful central bank.

"Since Yellen has become a candidate to succeed Ben Bernanke, she has hardly spoken about her view on monetary policy. Because the market doesn't seem to doubt she is a dove, there's a chance she is not as dovish as expected," said Ichiro Asai, economist at Daiwa Securities.

A Reuters poll of primary dealers on Friday found a majority of respondents still believe the Fed taper would not happen until March or later.

Global markets have been buffeted since May over speculation of an imminent end to cheap dollars, a major driver of assets in recent years.

Signals from central bank officials have been mixed, with Narayana Kocherlakota, president of the Minneapolis Fed, speaking about the need for aggressive action to foster growth.

The dollar was off about 0.1 percent at 99.56 yen after rising as high as 99.79 yen on Tuesday, its strongest level since Sept. 13. The dollar faces resistance at 100 yen, above which it has not traded since Sept. 11.

The euro was nearly flat from U.S. levels, holding well above lows set last week, when it suffered a heavy selloff on Thursday after the European Central Bank stunned investors by unexpectedly cutting its main rate to a record-low 0.25 percent.

The common currency bought $1.3439, well above its two-month low of $1.3295 hit on Thursday, but still down nearly 3 percent from a two-year peak of $1.3833 set last month.

The dollar index inched down about 0.1 percent to 81.125, edging away from a two-month peak of 81.482 struck on Friday.

In commodities markets, gold was slightly down, trading close to a four-week low, while copper fell on the heightened speculation that the Fed will taper its stimulus.

U.S. crude for December delivery slipped below $93 a barrel to near 4-1/2 month lows, while the benchmark three-month copper contract fell 0.4 percent to $7,093.50 a tonne.

 

 

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