Dollar hits 2-week high on U.S. tax reform optimism, world shares climb

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LONDON (Dec 7): The dollar rose to its highest level in two weeks on Thursday over optimism the United States would successfully push through tax reforms, while world shares rebounded after two straight days of losses.

The U.S. currency slipped against the safe-haven Japanese yen on Wednesday, after U.S. President Donald Trump said he would recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel — a move that imperiled Middle East peace efforts and provoked widespread condemnation.

But amidst a broader climb in global stocks on Thursday, the greenback rose 0.3% against the yen to trade at 112.60 yen, and hit a two-week high against a basket of peers.

The MSCI World Index, which tracks shares in 47 countries, was up 0.1%.

Underpinning some of the dollar's gains analysts said was some cautious optimism on progress over U.S. tax reforms.

U.S. Senate Republicans agreed to talks with the House of Representatives on sweeping tax legislation on Wednesday, amid early signs that lawmakers could bridge their differences and agree on a final bill ahead of a self-imposed Dec 22 deadline.

"The dollar is fighting back a little bit but there’s still some caution, as it could still be a few weeks until we know the oucome of the tax reform bill," said Rabobank currency strategist Jane Foley, in London.

"The yen will be sensitive if geopolitical tensions rise again, and I think there’s an inevitability to that, so I don’t think there’s going to be too much updside for dollar/yen in this environment," she added.

Upbeat U.S. private-sector employment data released on Wednesday also provided some support to the dollar. But strategists said the currency would trade in narrow ranges until the release of the closely watched non-farm payrolls report on Friday.

Bitcoin soared to a record high of more than US$14,500, up almost 7% on the day and continuing a staggering surge from less than US$1,000 at the beginning of the year.

Stocks recover

European stock markets appeared to take their cues from a general recovery in tech stocks overnight in Asia and Wall Street.

The pan-European STOXX 600 was up 0.2%, with tech stocks initially up 0.5%. Financials, industrials and healthcare shares also added points to the index.

"We have seen some aggressive moves in Asia, whereas Europe seems to be a bit more subdued," said David Madden, analyst at CMC Markets in London.

"It's almost like European markets look for an excuse to selloff but it takes them a lot to be convinced to actually push higher."

Shares in the energy sector, which weighed on shares earlier in Wall Street and Asia, rose in Europe, as oil prices recovered from a big fall on Wednesday.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude futures traded at US$56.13 per barrel in European trade, up 0.3% on the day.

Brent futures gained 0.4% to US$61.45 per barrel.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan edged up 0.2%, as some technology bellwethers rebounded, with Tencent rising over 3% and Alibaba more than 2%.

In Japan, the Nikkei jumped 1.5%, recouping much of its 2.0% loss the previous day, which was its biggest fall since late March.

The price of copper, seen as a barometer of global economic health, because of its extensive industrial use, also fell sharply earlier this week, raising worries about the world growth outlook.

Copper traded at US$6,576 a tonne, up 0.5% on the day and above a two-month low of US$6,507.5 touched on Tuesday.