Dollar builds on gains as US data overshadow North Korea woes

The dollar extended its gains on Thursday as strong US growth and jobs data helped traders move past North Korea’s missile test but oil struggled as deadly storm Harvey batters the Gulf Coast.

Markets across Asia rallied Wednesday after the previous day’s North Korea-fuelled losses as US President Donald Trump’s apparently measured response soothed fears about possible conflict in the region.

The gains extended into Europe and New York later in the day after the US Commerce Department reported the world’s largest economy expanded a forecast-beating three percent in the second quarter.

That came as a closely watched private jobs creation reading also broke expectations.

New York’s three main indexes ended in positive territory and the dollar, which has recently come under pressure, jumped to life.

The greenback rallied against the euro and yen — considered a safe bet in times of crisis — as the strong readings revived speculation the Federal Reserve could consider lifting interest rates for a third time this year. Eyes will now turn to the release of key official figures on Friday.

Having broken above $1.20 soon after Pyongyang’s missile launch the euro was well down and struggling to claw its way back to $1.19 in Asia on Thursday. Also, the dollar was sitting at a two-week high of 110.57 yen, compared with levels below 108.50 yen seen Tuesday.

– Fresh Harvey woes –
“The dollar thundered back to life augmented by startlingly positive US (growth) and labour market data,” said Stephen Innes, head of Asia-Pacific trading at OANDA.

“Also, investors were quick to put the recent North Korean flare up in the rear view mirror as haven assets lost their endearment and US equity markets rebounded.”

The weak yen supported Japanese exporters, with Tokyo’s Nikkei ending 0.7 percent higher, while Sydney added 0.8 percent and Singapore gained 0.5 percent. Wellington and Taipei were also higher.

However, Shanghai dipped 0.1 percent as official figures showed a rise in Chinese factory activity in August but not strong enough to ease concerns about the world’s number two economy, which is growing at its slowest pace in more than a quarter of a century.

Hong Kong eased 0.4 percent, with profit-takers also moving in after enjoying six days of gains in the previous seven trading days.

In early European trade London rose 0.3 percent while Paris and Frankfurt each added 0.5 percent.

On oil markets both main contracts edged down and continue to be buffeted by worries over Harvey, which has seen dozens of refineries shut down in the crude-rich Gulf and dented demand for the commodity.

With refineries shut down there is no demand for crude to be processed but the storm has led to a rise in petrol prices across the United States.

Analysts said the release next week of US inventory data could reveal a big jump in stockpiles as there are fewer place for the oil that has been pumped to be refined.

“While some Texas refiners were beginning to restart operations Wednesday as Tropical Storm Harvey moved into Louisiana, others were bringing plants down, causing a further reduction in available refining capacity,” energy information provider S&P Global Platts said.

– Key figures around 0820 GMT –
Tokyo – Nikkei 225: UP 0.7 percent at 19,646.24 (close)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng: DOWN 0.4 percent at 27,970.30 (close)

Shanghai – Composite: DOWN 0.1 percent at 3,360.81 (close)

London – FTSE 100: UP 0.3 percent at 7,384.11

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.1878 from $1.1882 at 2100 GMT on Wednesday

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.2902 from $1.2924

Dollar/yen: UP at 110.47 yen from 110.29 yen

Oil – West Texas Intermediate: DOWN four cents at $45.92 per barrel

Oil – Brent North Sea: DOWN nine cents at $50.77

New York – Dow: UP 0.1 percent at 21,892.08 (close)

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