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Asia stocks track U.S. tech rally

2009-12-23 10:14:15
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HONG KONG (Reuters) - The dollar held firm on Tuesday against major currencies, and hit a two-month high against the yen, while Asian shares edged up as technology stocks tracked a rally in their peers on Wall Street.

The dollar touched 91.45 yen, its highest level since late October, helped by unwinding of dollar short positions ahead of the year end, and was steady against a basket of major currencies .DXY after reaching multi-week highs on Monday.

Recent robust U.S. economic figures are also supporting the dollar, raising expectations that U.S. interest rates may rise sooner than earlier thought.

"It does all get back to when the Fed may or may not be tightening policy and the market is heading towards thinking they will get to tightening in Q3 next year," said Greg Gibbs, a currency strategist at RBS in Sydney.

The dollar's strength helped lift shares of Asian exporters, notably in Japan where the Nikkei index .N225 hit an eight-week high as exporters were boosted by a weakening yen.

The Nikkei was up 1.2 percent by late morning.

Gold picked up, trading at $1,093.2 an ounce after hitting a six-and-a-half week low at $1,090.65 on Monday when it was hit by the dollar's rise.

The MSCI index of Asia Pacific stocks traded outside Japan rose 0.6 percent while the Thomson Reuters index of regional shares was 0.7 percent higher.

RATE SPECULATION

Asian technology shares tracked a rally on Wall Street after Barclays upgraded chipmaker Intel Corp which helped push the Nasdaq to a 15-month high. An upgrade for aluminium producer Alcoa Inc and the U.S. healthcare bill's advance in the Senate underpinned overall market sentiment, lifting the Dow Jones by 0.8 percent.

Stock market gains generally were modest as investors are keen to lock in gains this year, which has seen the MSCI Asia ex-Japan index surge 60 percent.

Optimism about the sustainability of global economic recovery meanwhile was reinforced by Chicago Federal Reserve Bank President Charles Evans, who forecast the U.S. economy would grow 3 to 3.5 percent over the next 18 months but low inflation would allow the central bank to maintain easy monetary policy for an extended period.

Currency markets, however, are speculating that the U.S. economy could recover faster than the euro zone and U.S. rates will rise earlier.

Rising U.S. yields are eating into the Australian dollar's interest rate advantage and pushed it to an 11-week low at $0.8782 at one point on Tuesday.

The dollar's broad strength has also put pressure on the oil price but it was steady on Tuesday at $73.76 a barrel ahead of an OPEC meeting in Angola, when the cartel is expected to leave output limits unchanged. The market was also awaiting U.S. crude inventory data due later in the day.


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