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Dollar Drops on Yellen Comments, China Shares Rise

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The dollar weakened after Janet Yellen said it’s prudent for the Federal Reserve to gradually adjust policy over time, while Chinese equities extended gains as the world’s second-largest economy grew faster than forecast. Gold climbed for a second day.

The greenback slipped against major peers after the Fed chief’s speech. The Shanghai Composite Index rose the most in more than two weeks as China’s gross domestic product accelerated for the first time in two years in the final quarter of 2016. Gold headed for a fourth weekly climb as investors await the start of Donald Trump’s presidency. Japan’s Topix index rose for a third day as insurers surged.

Rallies in the dollar and equities are easing this week before Trump is sworn in as the 45th American president, with investors growing anxious for indications the administration will follow through on pro-growth campaign promises. Billionaire investor George Soros said the euphoria among stock investors since Trump’s victory will end as uncertainty takes over. The Dow Jones Industrial Average has churned in its tightest range ever over the past month.

“It’s clear that investors have reached a level where they are prepared to wait and see what the Trump administration has to offer,” said Ric Spooner, chief market analyst at CMC Markets Asia Pacific Ltd. in Sydney.

In a speech at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy a day before Trump’s inauguration, Yellen argued that the Fed wasn’t behind the curve in containing inflation pressures but nevertheless can’t afford to allow the economy to run too hot. In a separate speech on Wednesday, Yellen said the Fed was close to achieving its goals of full employment and stable prices. The odds of another Fed rate hike as soon as May have risen to 50 percent from 42 percent a day ago, futures contracts show.

China’s economic data cemented an economic stabilization that’s giving leaders a buffer as they transition to neutral policy and prepare for potential trade tensions with Trump. GDP increased 6.8 percent in the three months through December from a year earlier, compared with a 6.7 percent median estimate in a Bloomberg survey.

Currencies

The Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index was down 0.2 percent as of 3:49 p.m. in Tokyo. The gauge is heading toward its fourth straight weekly loss despite touching the highest level in more than a decade earlier this month.

Treasury Secretary nominee Steven Mnuchin told lawmakers the long-term strength of the U.S. dollar is important and Trump’s comments that the currency was too high weren’t meant as a longer-run policy.

The yen rose 0.2 percent to 114.68 per dollar after falling as much as 0.3 percent.

The onshore yuan erased gains on report of a temporary RRR cut. The offshore yuan was up 0.1 percent, in line for a third straight weekly advance.

Stocks

Futures on the S&P 500 Index rose 0.1 percent. The underlying cash index fell 0.4 percent to the lowest in two weeks on Thursday. The Dow declined for a fifth straight day, the longest losing streak since Trump’s election victory.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index rose 0.3 percent, with gainers and losers evenly poised on the 1,023-member gauge.

The Topix index climbed 0.4 percent, completing its fourth week of declines in five weeks. South Korea’s Kospi Index lost 0.4 percent, ending a two-week climb.

The Shanghai Composite gained 0.7 percent. The ChiNext Composite Index, a measure of small companies, rose the most since October on speculation small-cap stocks will benefit from a plan to ease index-trading restrictions. The Shenzhen Composite gained the most in two months. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index fell 0.5 percent.

Commodities

Gold rose 0.2 percent to $1,207.62 an ounce, on course for a fourth weekly climb. It is up 0.9 percent this week, touching the highest level since November on Tuesday.

Bonds

The yield on 10-year Treasuries fell two basis points to 2.46 percent after a two-day rally.

Source: Bloomberg